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Several space and ground-based telescopes witnessed one of the brightest explosions in space when it hit Earth on October 9. The burst is perhaps one of the most powerful ever recorded by telescopes.
According to NASA, gamma-ray bursts, or GRBs, are the most powerful class of explosions in the universe. Scientists have dubbed this one GRB 221009A, and telescopes around the world continue to observe its aftermath.
“The exceptionally long GRB 221009A is the brightest GRB on record and its afterglow is breaking all records at all wavelengths,” said Brendan O’Connor, PhD student at the University of Maryland and George University. Washington to Washington, DC, in a statement. .
“Because this burst is so bright and so close, we believe this is a once-in-a-century opportunity to address some of the most fundamental questions about these outbursts, from black hole formation to testing models of dark matter. .”
Scientists believe the creation of the long light pulse occurred when a massive star in the constellation Sagitta – about 2.4 billion light-years away – collapsed in a supernova explosion and is become a black hole. The star probably had several times the mass of our sun.
Gamma rays and X-rays passed through the solar system and triggered detectors on NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and the Wind spacecraft, as well as ground-based telescopes like the Telescope Gemini South in Chile.
Newborn black holes shoot out powerful jets of particles that can travel at near the speed of light, releasing radiation in the form of X-rays and gamma rays. Billions of years after streaking through space, the black hole’s detonation finally reached our corner of the universe last week.
Studying an event like this can reveal more details about star collapse, how matter interacts near the speed of light, and conditions in distant galaxies. Astronomers estimate that such a bright gamma-ray burst may not reappear for decades.
The source of the burst seems 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 burst for more than 10 hours.
O’Connor was the leader of a team using the Gemini South Telescope in Chile, operated by the National Science Foundation’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory, or NOIRLab, to observe the aftermath of October 14.
“In our research group, we call this burst the ‘BOAT,’ or brightest ever, because when you look at the thousands of bursts that gamma-ray telescopes have detected since the 1990s, this one stands out. .,” said Jillian Rastinejad, a PhD 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 star’s collapse.
The bright burst also enabled two devices aboard the International Space Station: the NICER X-ray Telescope (or Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer) and Japan’s Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image, or MAXI. Combined, the two devices are called the Orbiting High-energy Monitor Alert Network, or OHMAN.
It was the first time the two devices, installed on the space station in April, could work together to detect a gamma-ray burst, and meant the NICER telescope could observe GRB 221009A three hours after its detection.
“Future opportunities could result in response times of minutes,” Zaven Arzoumanian, NICER chief scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement.
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