A bright and powerful gamma-ray burst has been detected


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Multiple space and ground-based telescopes observed one of the brightest explosions in space when it reached Earth on October 9. The explosion may be one of the most powerful ever recorded by telescopes.

Gamma-ray bursts, or GRBs, are the most powerful class of explosions in the universe, according to NASA. Scientists named it GRB 221009A, and telescopes around the world continue to observe its effects.

“The long exception GRB 221009A is the brightest GRB ever recorded and is breaking all brightness records at all wavelengths,” said Brendan O’Connor, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Maryland and George Washington University in Washington, DC. , in a note. .

“Because this explosion is so bright and so close, we think it’s a once-in-a-century opportunity to answer some fundamental questions about these explosions, from the formation of black holes to tests of dark matter models.”

Scientists believe that the long, bright pulse was created when a massive star in the constellation Sagitta—2.4 billion light-years away—collapsed in a supernova explosion and became a black hole. The star was probably more massive than our sun.

Gamma rays and X-rays rippled through the solar system and triggered detectors installed on NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and the Wind spacecraft, as well as ground-based telescopes such as the Gemini South telescope in Chile.

Newborn black holes emit powerful jets of particles that can travel close to the speed of light, releasing radiation in the form of X-rays and gamma rays. After traveling through space for billions of years, last week the detonation of the black hole reached our corner of the universe.

Studying such an event can reveal more details about collapsing stars, how matter interacts at near-light speeds, and what they might look like in distant galaxies. Astronomers believe that a bright gamma ray burst may not appear again for decades.

The source of the explosion sounds distant, but astronomically it is quite close to Earth, which is why it was so bright and lasted so long. The explosion was detected by the Fermi telescope for more than 10 hours.

O’Connor led a team using the Gemini South telescope in Chile by the National Science Foundation’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory, or NOIRLab, to observe the effects on Oct. 14.

“In our research group, we call this burst ‘BOAT’, or brightest of all time, because if you look at the thousands of bursts detected by gamma-ray telescopes since the 1990s, this one stands out. ” said Jillian Rastinejad, a doctoral student at Northwestern University in Illinois, who led a second team using Gemini South.

Astronomers will use their observations to study the signatures of heavy elements released by the collapsing star.

The bright burst also provided an opportunity for two instruments on the International Space Station: the NICER (or Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer) X-ray telescope and Japan’s X-ray Sky Imaging Monitor, or MAXI. Combined, the two devices are called the Orbiting High-energy Monitor Alert Network, or OHMAN.

April marked the first time that the two instruments installed on the space station worked together to detect a gamma-ray burst, and the NICER telescope was able to observe GRB 221009A three hours after it was detected.

“Future options may result in response times of a few minutes,” Zaven Arzoumanian, NICER science manager at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement.