About 1.9 billion years ago, a dying star collapsed, and exploded in a powerful wave of gamma rays that shot toward Earth. Finally, they washed our planet on October 9. They called the detectors on three telescopes in orbit: the Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope, the Neil Gehrells Swift Observatory, and the Wind spacecraft.
These telescopes and other observatories around the world, quickly settled on the source of the radiation: a distant object now called GRB 221009A, pulsing with the powerful glow of gamma-ray emissions.
It was the most luminous and powerful event ever detected, NASA announce Thursday. Telescope images show how dangerous the explosion was.
“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,” Gillian Rastingad, a PhD student at Northwestern University, said in a statement.
Rastingad led a group of researchers who conducted follow-up observations on Friday, and took more measurements as the gamma ray stream continued to flow onto Earth.
The radiation may have come from a supernova explosion – the collapse of a dying star into a black hole. It may be decades before another burst of gamma rays appears again.
“It’s a very unique event,” said Yvette Sindis, an astronomer and postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Mashableadding that a giant gamma-ray burst in a galaxy very close to us is “extremely, incredibly rare.”
“It’s the equivalent of getting front row seats at a fireworks display,” she said.
The sheer power and brightness of the ancient explosion allow astronomers to gather a lot of data about it, which could reveal new insights into how stars die, how black holes form, and how matter behaves near the speed of light, as it emerges from a supernova. . It helps that the object is relatively close to us, compared to other gamma-ray bursts discovered by astronomers.
This proximity “allows us to discover many details that would be too faint to be seen,” said Roberta Pellera, a Fermi LAT Collaborative member who led the initial communications about the explosion, at NASA. statement. “But it’s also among the most energetic and brightest explosions ever, regardless of distance, which makes it doubly exciting.”