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Huntsville's young scientist

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Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 10:17 pm | Updated: 8:04 pm, Thu Mar 14, 2013.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala (WAAY)- When William Lucas was 13 years-old he did made a huge discovery before NASA, the US Air Force, or any other scientist around the world; he discovered a massive Gamma Ray burst.  

William, a student at Whitesburg Middle, has long had a love for Science.

"It’s fun, it’s interesting, it’s something new, you get to explore new things that haven't been discovered before," said William while talking about his love for all things scientific. So when his 13th birthday rolled around in 2011 he had a big decision to make.

"My parents told me for my 13th birthday to either have a dirt bike or a Geiger counter and I chose a Geiger counter for good reasons,” he said while explaining the dirt bikes are a bit too dangerous and with a Geiger counter he could learn more.

He registered his new gift with the Radiation Network which uploads his data automatically and began testing. He started off with bananas and rocks but found a bigger project in March of 2011.

After a massive Tsunami the Fukushima  Nuclear plant in Japan went into meltdown. He began measuring the radiation fallout as it spread. The readings spiked but not to dangerous levels, that is until March 28th.

"My husband called me and said everybody and his uncle his coming over because our son is having a radiation incident, you have to come home," recalled Diana Lucas, William’s mother.  

William was at school but the Geiger counter was getting extremely high radiation readings. The Fire department called first but it did not stop there. Several different law enforcement divisions descended on the house expecting to possibly find illicit activity. Diana says her explanation was initially met with some skepticism.

"They did shoot me this look like we are not going to let you fool us."

When they saw the Geiger counter one person decided to turn it off but not before William’s father was able to save the data.

William initially suspected he had just detected more Fukushima radiation, but the sudden spike piqued his interest. Armed with maps of the sky and his own graphs he began to look for an answer to the sudden spike and with the help of his cousin, discovered that he had detected an enormous Gamma Ray burst.  

"I felt shock," William says of the discovery.  

But a few months later the family got even bigger news.

“We called British Interplanetary Society and they said ‘Oh this looks like your first,’" said Diana.

The 13 year-old had detected a Gamma Ray burst originating from a black hole 3.8 billion light years away from Earth and he was the first to do it.

"I just feel very happy that I was the first person to discover something," said the now 15 year-old, "but if it was anywhere closer to Earth we would be dead right now,” he continued.

His findings were verified; the burst was traced to the Draco Constellation and cataloged as 110328A. William calls it the Draco Kill Shot. He was later asked to speak before the Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop. Diana says luck had a little to do with his accomplishment, but only a little.

“He had to work to develop it and that's what I’m really proud about as a mother."

The Draco Kill Shot is considered to be the longest lasting Gamma Ray burst ever observed.  

Lucas is in the process of writing 2 books about his findings, a children’s version and an adult’s version they will both hopefully be out soon.

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