A powerful and bright explosion of gamma rays has been detected

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Multiple space and ground telescopes experienced one of the brightest explosions in space when they 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 this model GRB 221009A, and telescopes around the world continue to monitor its effects.

“The exceptionally long GRB 221009A is the brightest GRB ever recorded, and its afterglow breaks all records at all wavelengths,” Brendan O’Connor, a doctoral student at the University of Maryland and George Washington University in Washington, said in a statement. .

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

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 was likely several times the mass of our Sun.

Gamma rays and X-rays scattered across the solar system and fired detectors installed on NASA’s Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope, Neil Gehrells Swift Observatory and the Wind spacecraft, as well as ground-based telescopes such as the Gemini South telescope in Chile.

Newborn black holes release powerful jets of particles that can move at close to the speed of light, releasing radiation in the form of X-rays and gamma rays. After billions of years of space travel, a black hole explosion finally reached our corner of the universe last week.

Studying an event like this could reveal more details about the collapse of stars, how matter interacts near the speed of light and what conditions might be in distant galaxies. Astronomers estimate that such a bright gamma-ray burst may not reappear for decades.

The source of the explosion appears to be far away, but in astronomical terms, it is relatively close to Earth, which is why it was so bright and lasted so long. The Fermi telescope detected the explosion for more than 10 hours.

The Gemini South Telescope captured this image of the aftermath of the explosion.

O’Connor was the leader of a team using the Gemini South Telescope in Chile, which is operated by the National Science Foundation’s National Optical and Infrared Research Laboratory, or NOIRLab, to observe the effects on October 14.

“In our research group, we’ve been referring to this explosion as ‘BOAT’, or the brightest of all time, because when you look at the thousands of explosions that gamma-ray telescopes have spotted since the 1990s, this telescope stands apart,” said Gillian Rastingad, a PhD student at Northwestern University in Illinois who led a second team using Gemini South.

Astronomers will use their observations to analyze the fingerprints of any heavy elements from the collapse of the star.

The luminous explosion also provided an opportunity for two instruments aboard the International Space Station: the NICER X-ray Telescope (or Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer) and the Japanese All-Sky X-ray Image Observer, or MAXI. The two devices together are called the Orbital High Energy Monitor Alert Network, or OHMAN.

It was the first time that the two instruments, which were installed on the space station in April, were able to work together to detect a gamma-ray burst, meaning the NICER telescope was able to observe GRB 221009A three hours after its discovery.

“Future opportunities may lead to response times of a few minutes,” said Zaven Arzumanian, NICER’s science lead at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, in a statement.

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