In January 2020, the international MAGIC Collaboration, including School of Science, Department of Physics Professors Junko Kushida and Kyoshi Nishijima, successfully observed emissions from a gamma ray burst for the first time. The group used two Cherenkov telescopes that are 17m in diameter and located on La Palma, one of Spain's Canary Islands. A paper on the group's findings was published in the online version of the British scientific journal『Nature』.
The MAGIC Collaboration is an international joint research team of more than 200 researchers from 21 research institutions in eight countries, including Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and Japan. Using the two Cherenkov telescopes, the team continuously monitors ultra high-energy gamma rays. As members of the team, Prof. Kushida and Prof. Nishijima travel to La Palma several times a year to perform observations and analysis. Prof. Kushida is also an observation team leader.
In past research, the research team successfully detected ultra high-energy gamma rays from high-energy astronomical objects, such as supernova remnants or active galactic nuclei with black holes at their center. However, gamma ray bursts - the largest explosions in the universe - were thought to be difficult to capture because they happen suddenly, and the release of energy occurs only for a few minutes at most. The MAGIC Collaboration prepared a system by which observations could begin as soon as alerts containing locational information were received from a NASA gamma ray space satellite and other sources. In this instance, the team began observations a mere 40 seconds after receiving an alert, achieving the first successful observation of gamma ray burst emissions using Cherenkov telescopes on Earth. The team learned that the gamma ray radiation emitted by this gamma ray burst contained an extremely high amount of energy - one trillion times that of visible light. They also clearly determined that the radiation mechanism involves a component different from that of x-rays.
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