Record-Breaking Gamma-Ray Burst

Video Player

Video Versions


Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with NASA’s Universe of Learning partners: Caltech/IPAC, Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Video imagery:

·       Sequence of Fermi GRB 221009A observations: NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration
·       Animation of star collapse and particle jet generation: NASA/Swift/Cruz deWilde
·       X-Ray afterglow of GRB 221009A: NASA/Swift/A. Beardmore (University of Leicester)
·       Sequence showing GRB 221009A fading: NASA/Swift/B. Cenko

Writer: Leah Ramsay
Designer: Leah Hustak, Joseph Olmsted
Science review: Dr. Frank Summers
Education review: Jim Manning
Music from Music for Non-Profits


Photos of planets and galaxies. Text, News From the Universe.
A red point flashes brightly. October 20, 2022. Record-Breaking Gamma-Ray Burst. Fermi Large Area Telescope. On October 9, a wave of high-energy X-rays and gamma-rays swept through the Solar System. The emission came from a gamma-ray burst-the most powerful class of explosions in the universe. It is one of the brightest and most energetic ever measured.
Animation, a pale blue sphere emits a purple beam of light. As the ray continues, the sphere evaporates into a red and blue cloud.
Text, Astronomers think the burst resulted from a massive star collapsing to form a black hole and launching jets of high-energy particles at close to the speed of light.
The ray intensifies in the animation. It is white with purple edges. The original blue area turns gold and red, then disappears.
A photo from the SWIFT X-RAY telescope. A red circle with a pattern like a target. In the center is a burst of yellow. Text, Telescopes around the world turned to study the aftermath, and observations continue.
Video from SWIFT Ultraviolet optical telescope. The gamma ray burst pulses in a field of stars. Text, Scientists study these bursts to learn more about extreme physics like the formation of black holes and matter moving near the speed of light.
Astronomers say that another burst this bright may not appear for decades.
This news was brought to you in part by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.