Jul 28, 2017

Gamma-ray bursts give explosive insight into early universe

Nathaniel Butler / ASU

When stars die and collapse to form black holes, a powerful explosion — second only to the Big Bang itself — occurs. These gamma-ray bursts take place billions of light years away. Across space and therefore time, they're a window into the early universe that opens for just a few milliseconds to a minute. By the time a telescope is turned, they're typically gone.

Last year though, researchers were able to observe an unusually bright one — GRB 160625B, pictured above— using six telescopes on the ground and in space. They caught it early to enough to measure strong changes in the polarized light of the burst for the first time. "That, in turn, tells us that the release of magnetic energy is an important ingredient in these exotic explosions," says Arizona State University's Nathaniel Butler.

A new picture: Spiraling electrons cause radiation that powers magnetic jets in the first moments of the explosion. The magnetic fields then break down and are largely replaced by matter from the dying star that falls into the black hole and is ejected again. Researchers have known about these two processes but thought only one was responsible. Now, it seems it could be both.

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Warren sees bump in national poll following Nevada debate

Photo by David Becker/Getty Images.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren surged to 19% and second place in a CBS News/YouGov national poll released Sunday, trailing front-runner Sen. Bernie Sanders (28%) but edging out Joe Biden (17%) and Michael Bloomberg (13%).

Why it matters: The poll notes that only 42% of Democratic primary voters have made up their minds. While Warren underperformed in the first three states, her strong debate performance in Nevada last week may have given her campaign new life.

Pence aide says intel report of Russia helping Trump is "false information"

Marc Short. Screenshot: Fox News

Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, claimed on "Fox News Sunday" that the White House has not received intelligence that Russia is seeking to help President Trump win re-election, calling it "false information" that has been selectively leaked by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee.

The big picture: Short and national security adviser Robert O'Brien both dismissed reports published in the Washington Post and New York Times last week about a briefing provided by top election security official Shelby Pierson, an aide to outgoing acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire.

Bernie's juggernaut

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks in San Antonio last night with his wife, Jane. Photo: Eric Gay/AP

Sen. Bernie Sanders won so big in the Nevada caucuses that Democrats are hard-pressed to sketch a way he's not their nominee.

Driving the news: With 60% of precincts counted (slow, but better than Iowa!), Sanders is running away with 46% of delegates — crushing Joe Biden's 20%, Pete Buttigieg's 15%, Sen. Elizabeth Warren's 10% and Sen. Amy Klobuchar's 5%.