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Astronomers observe massive gamma-ray flare
Posted: Mon, Feb 21, 2005, 9:04 AM ET (1404 GMT)
Astronomers said Friday that a massive gamma-ray flare from a star system on the other side of the galaxy buffeted the Earth last December, powerful enough to affect over a dozen satellites. The December 27 flare originated from a magnetar, an extremely dense, magnetized star, 50,000 light-years away. Despite the distance, the gamma-ray flare was strong enough to be detected by about 15 satellites, knocking some detectors off-scale with its strength. The flare also briefly ionized atoms in the Earth's ionosphere to a deeper level than even powerful solar flares, affecting long-wavelength radio communications. Astronomers said the flare provides them with evidence to link such events to short-duration gamma-ray bursts, whose explanation had eluded scientists.
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