An interesting occurrence in the world of worldwide astronomy and the Twitter-'Net age took place last night and it has been fascinating to follow. Before you read on I hope you will take a minute to read my blog from yesterday - Vet the Net - for some related background.
Last night the Twitterverse lit up over the announcement that there had been a high energy outburst within neighboring galaxy M-31 - see my recent blog on M-31 for background. Tweets abounded and there was great excitement that a high energy, possibly an X-ray Transient Event or Gamma Ray Burst event had been observed by NASA's SWIFT orbital telescope.
For this to happen in M-31 is BIG as it would be the closest event of this type to be observed - only 2.5 million light years away - practically in our backyard. Astronomers started Tweeting and using the 'Net to communicate based on the preliminary announcement. Astronomers were getting ready to observe with optical and radio telescopes and posting their progress.
This went on for awhile and was truly fascinating to watch. Then it was announced that there was no event but rather an observation of a previously known and catalogued source in M-31.
GCN from the Swift satellite experts at Leicester politely squelch the original claim from GSFC http://gcn.gsfc.nasa.gov/gcn3/16336.gcn3
With these announcements the Twitterverse wound down and astronomers began to access what had transpired. A nice write up the events was posted and explains what happened.
Once again to me this shows what happens in our instant communication age - word spreads on the 'Net and people react. You have to remember that astronomical events like this are transient in nature and demand a quick response to gather data through observations.
The bottom line though is that unlike yesterday's blog which was a downright fraudulent story/hoax, this one involved real science and how it works in the Internet age.
The bummer is that EVEYONE wishes that it had been a true GRB event - that would have been something!
Sky Guy in VA
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