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Queen's University scientist unlocks gamma ray burst secrets

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Betty Saliba
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A Queen's University Belfast scientist has recreated the first ever mini version of a gamma ray burst in a laboratory, opening up a whole new way to investigate their properties and potentially unlocking some of the mysteries around alien civilisation.

However, because they occur in short bursts and originate in distant galaxies - sometimes even billions of light years from Earth - scientists have not been able to exactly pinpoint what causes them.

Some might even suggest they may be messages from advanced alien civilisations but many experts have predicted that the bursts are emitted when jets of particles are thrown out by massive astrophysical objects, such as black holes.

For this theory to work, the beams released by black holes would have to have strong, self-generated magnetic fields and the rotation of particles around the fields would then give off powerful bursts of gamma ray radiation.

Dr Gianluca Sarri from the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen's University has led an international team of researchers to create the first small-scale replica of gamma ray bursts.

He has now been able to prove for the first time, some of the key phenomena that play a major role in producing gamma ray bursts.

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Betty Saliba
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