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Bursts from a comet cloud.

Bursts from a comet cloud

Every year, astronomers detect nearly 100 intense bursts of gamma rays. Each of these mysterious bursts seems to originate from a single point in the sky, yet astronomers have so far failed to identity them with particular stars. In almost every case, observers detect the burst only once, but a few sources flash repeatedly. In the Feb. 23 NATURE, French and German researchers suggest that comets falling onto small, dense stars known as white dwarfs could explain these repeating gamma-ray bursts.

The researchers argue that an orbiting comet passing close to a white dwarf would break into several pieces. These fragments, perhaps during different orbits, would crash into the star at high speed, creating a hot spot that cools off by emitting X-rays and gamma rays. The theory can be tested by looking specifically for white-dwarf stars wherever repeating gamma-ray bursts appear to originate.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Feb 25, 1989
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