Flash! The hunt for cosmic super-explosions
The universe and its incredible processes
In this compelling new book, science writer and astronomer Govert Schilling tells the story of the chance discovery of powerful gamma-ray flashes from outer space. These signals were picked up by satellites launched in the 1960s to detect illegal nuclear tests in space, and led to decades of controversy in astronomical circles.
Flash! not only tells how the truth was reached slowly but secure along a narrow trail, but also describes the development of the various instruments and observatories on earth and in space used to locate minuscule sources of light, radio and gamma-ray waves in the sky.
As if present in person, Schilling portrays the last moments of a dying star many billions of light years away from the earth. What was a local energy explosion comparable to the Big Bang reached our solar system after a journey lasting billions of years and is no more than an unsightly bleep on a screen or a vanishing pinpoint in the sky.
Most revealing of all is the glimpse of the astronomical research ‘kitchen’ Schilling gives his readers, of a kitchen in which the cooks seem to be elbowing, even banishing one another from the stove. A kitchen, moreover, in which the cooks sometimes produce misbegotten dishes that can be whisked off the table just in time.
Flash! is a book for everyone fascinated by the universe and its processes, in which distance and energy assume incredible proportions – which Schilling describes most entertainingly; for anyone intrigued by the detective work of astronomers – many of whom are quoted in Flash!; and for anyone interested in the techniques and instruments that help keep the universe under observation, of which a large number are set out in this vividly written book.