New York, November 13: Astronomers have discovered the brightest infrared light ever seen from a brief gamma-ray burst, with a bizarre glow that is much brighter than previously thought possible.
The half-second flash of light, detected in May of this year, came from a violent gamma-ray burst billions of light years away that unleashed more energy in the blink of an eye than the Sun will produce on all of its 10 billion. -year of life, according to a study accepted for publication in an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal.
“It’s surprising to me that after 10 years of studying the same kind of phenomenon, we can discover unprecedented behavior like this,” said study lead author Wen-fai Fong, Assistant Professor at Northwestern University in the United States.
“It just reveals the diversity of explosions the universe is capable of producing, which is very exciting.”
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope quickly captured the glow within just three days of the explosion and determined that its near-infrared emission was 10 times brighter than expected, challenging conventional models.
“These observations don’t fit traditional explanations for short gamma-ray bursts,” Fong said.
“Given what we know about the radio and the X-rays of this explosion, it just doesn’t match. The near-infrared emission we’re seeing with Hubble is too bright.”
To pinpoint the exact brightness of this new phenomenon, the team used the WM Keck Observatory on Maunakea in Hawaii to pinpoint the precise distance to the host galaxy.
“Distances are important in calculating the true brightness of the explosion relative to its apparent brightness as seen from Earth,” Fong said.
“With Keck, we were able to determine the true brightness of the blast and thus the energy scale. We found it had to be much more energetic than we initially thought.”
Lasting less than two seconds, the brief gamma-ray bursts are among the most energetic explosive events known; they live fast and die hard.
Scientists think they are caused by the merger of two neutron stars, extremely dense objects about the mass of the Sun compressed into the volume of a small city.
The brief gamma-ray burst described in this study was first detected by NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory.
Once the alarm went out, the team quickly enlisted other telescopes to conduct multi-wavelength observations.
They analyzed residual glow in X-rays with the Swift Observatory, optical and near-infrared with the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope, Hubble and Keck Observatory network, and in radio wavelengths with the Very Large Array radio observatory.
Astronomers detect “inexplicable brightness” from a colossal explosion
Did you like this article? Be the first to share it!