Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab
Astronomers think a long GRB (gamma-ray burst) arises from a massive, rapidly rotating star when its core runs out of fuel and collapses, forming a black hole in the star’s center. In this artist's concept, the camera flies into a vast cloud of dust and gas the star has been steadily ejecting over thousands of years. Near the star, a particle jet driven by matter falling toward the black hole erupts from the surface at nearly the speed of light. A more distant view reveals two jets moving in opposite directions, extending into and interacting with the cloud material, and producing the GRB and its afterglow. To detect a GRB, one of these jets must point toward Earth.