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"Chasing Fireworks across the Gamma-Ray Sky," a Free Public Lecture Set for 25 April

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John Nousek, professor of astronomy and astrophysics, will give a free public lecture, titled "Chasing Fireworks Across the Gamma-ray Sky: the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Explorer" at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, 25 April, in 102 Thomas Building on the Penn State University Park Campus.

Nousek will discuss how the Swift Gamma Ray Burst Explorer will be used to study distant and intense explosions that outshine all other objects in the sky, known as gamma-ray bursts.  Nousek leads a team of Penn State astronomers in a collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which is building the three-telescope satellite scheduled for launch in 2003.  The three coaligned telescopes are designed to make images of the sky in gamma rays, X-rays, and optical/ultraviolet light.  One of them, the Burst Alert Telescope, is responsible for detecting gamma-ray bursts.  When a burst, whose typical duration is only a few seconds, has been identified, the satellite will rapidly redirect the X-ray and optical telescopes to focus on it.  These telescopes will provide sharp images of the source of the gamma-ray burst and will pinpoint its location in the sky.  Swift is expected to discover a new gamma-ray source every day during its three-year mission.  Attendees will have an opportunity to meet with Nousek and other faculty members from the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics following the lecture.

Nousek's talk is the fourth in a series of five lectures planned for the 1999/2000 academic year.  The lectures are hosted by the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and are funded largely by the Ronald M. and Susan J. Friedman Outreach Fund in Astronomy.  Mr. Friedman is a member of the department's Board of Visitors.

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