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Multiple telescopes in space and on the ground witnessed one of the brightest explosions in space as it reached Earth on October 9. The burst may be one of the most powerful ever recorded by telescopes.
Gamma-ray bursts, or GRBs, are the most powerful kind of explosion in the universe, according to NASA. Scientists have named it GRB 221009A, and telescopes around the world continue to watch its aftermath.
“Exceptionally long GRB 221009A is the brightest GRB ever recorded, and its glow is breaking all records at all wavelengths,” said Brendan O’Connor, a doctoral student at the University of Maryland and George Washington University in Washington. , DC, in a statement. . .
“Because this outburst is so bright and so close, we think this is a once-in-a-century opportunity to address some of the most fundamental questions about these explosions, from the formation of black holes to testing models of dark matter.”
Scientists believe that the creation of the long bright pulse occurred when a massive star in the constellation Sagitta, about 2.4 billion light-years away, collapsed in a supernova explosion and became a black hole. The star probably had many times the mass of our sun.
Gamma rays and X-rays rippled through the solar system, triggering detectors 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 launch powerful jets of particles that can move at nearly the speed of light, releasing radiation in the form of X-rays and gamma rays. Billions of years after traveling through space, the detonation of the black hole finally reached our corner of the universe last week.
Studying an event like this can reveal more details about the collapse of stars, how matter interacts near the speed of light, and what conditions may be like in distant galaxies. Astronomers estimate that such a bright gamma-ray burst may not appear again for decades.
The source of the burst sounds distant, but astronomically speaking it is relatively close to Earth, which is why it was so bright and lasted so long. The Fermi telescope detected the outburst for more than 10 hours.
O’Connor was the leader of a team that used the Gemini South telescope in Chile, operated by the National Science Foundation’s National Optical and Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory, or NOIRLab, to observe the aftermath on Oct. 14.
“In our research group, we’ve referred to this burst as the ‘BOTE,’ or the brightest of all time, because when you look at the thousands of bursts that gamma-ray telescopes have been detecting since the 1990s, this one stands out…” said Jillian Ratinejad, a doctoral student at Northwestern University in Illinois who led a second team using Gemini South.
Astronomers will use their observations to analyze the signatures of any heavy elements released by the collapsing star.
The burst of light also provided an opportunity for two devices aboard the International Space Station: the NICER (or Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer) X-ray telescope and the Japan All-Sky X-ray Imaging Monitor. or MAXI. Combined, the two devices are called the Orbiting High-energy Monitor Alert Network, or OHMAN.
It was the first time that the two devices, installed on the space station in April, were able to work together to detect a gamma-ray burst, and it meant that the NICER telescope was able to observe GRB 221009A three hours after its detection.
“Future opportunities could result in response times of a few minutes,” Zaven Arzoumanian, NICER lead scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement.
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