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B. Astronomers Make Serendipitous Observations

Narrator: This is Science Today. When a team of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley recently launched a spacecraft into orbit, they hoped to learn more about the sun's active surface. But they found some of the most exciting discoveries were also been the least expected. Dr. Manfred Bester leads the Berkeley team that controls The High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager, or HESSI.

Bester: We cannot see the sun and take data from the sun when the spacecraft is on the other side of the earth-the night side. But then you can do some other observations that are sort of serendipitously coming about without planning.

Narrator: The mission's focus was gathering information about solar flares. But Bester and his team have picked up strong signals even when the sun is out of range.

Bester: So what we saw is that there was a pulsar putting out a gamma ray somewhere in our galaxy and those gamma rays go through the side walls of the spacecraft, still hit the detectors, and even with that you can do some useful science, exciting science, that wasn't even planned for.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.