NASA telescopes have detected the brightest, highest energy flood of radiation ever recorded from space.
About 1.9 billion years ago, a dying star collapsed, exploding in a powerful burst of gamma rays that sent light toward Earth. They finally passed by our planet on October 9. They placed detectors on three telescopes in orbit: the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, the Neil Gehrels Fast Observatory, and the Wind Vessel.
Those telescopes, and other observatories around the world, quickly zeroed in on the source of the radiation: a distant object now called GRB 221009A, pulsing with its intense gamma-ray emissions.
It was the brightest, most powerful event ever detected, NASA announced on Thursday. Telescope images show just how dramatic the explosion was.
In our research group, we mentioned this as the most famous breakthrough of all time, because when looking at the thousands of gamma-ray bursts detected by telescopes since the 1990s, this one stands apart. Jillian Rastinejad, a PhD student at Northwestern University, said in a statement.
Rastinejad led a group of researchers who conducted follow-up observations on Friday, taking more measurements as gamma rays continued to flood past Earth.
Radiation probably from a supernova explosion – a dying star falling into a black hole. It could be decades before another gamma-ray burst this bright appears again.
“It’s a very unique event,” Yvette Centes, an astronomer and postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told Mashable, adding that a giant gamma-ray burst in a galaxy so close to us is “incredibly, incredibly rare.”
“It’s like getting the seats ready before the row at a parade,” he said.
The sheer force and brightness of the ancient explosion allows astronomers to glean a wealth of information about it, which provides new insights into how stars die, how black holes form, and how matter behaves at the speed of light as it is ejected from a supernova. . It helps that the object is relatively close to us, so that other gamma-ray astronomers have detected it.
That proximity “allows us to detect many details that would otherwise be too faint to see,” Roberta Pillera, a member of the Fermi LAT Collaboration who led the initial communications about the bursts, said in a NASA statement. “But it also breaks out among the sharpest and brightest ever, regardless of distance, making it doubly exciting.”
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