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A History of Gamma Ray Bursts and Other Astronomical Conundrums

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The 24 years between the announcement of "gamma-ray bursts of cosmic origin" (1973) and the unambiguously cosmological 970228 seemed very long to the generation that lived through them. For a good many astronomical phenomena, however, the interval between the recognition of a puzzle and convergence of the community on a solution was even longer. Examples include periodic variable stars and coronal lines from the sun. In other cases, the right idea has appeared very soon after discovery, pulsars and quasars, for instance. Sometimes, on the other hand, the theorists are out in front with an explanation in advance of the discovery. This is called a prediction, and some have come very far in advance (heliocentric parallax surely holds the record), others only a few years (superluminal motion in quasars, for example). The talk and this paper explore a few examples of each class as a framework for the much-told GRB story. © 2006 American Institute of Physics.

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