Scientists were absolutely stunned to capture a huge gamma ray burst from a massive dying star, and the images are incredible.
An international team of 31 astronomers were able to capture images of a massive star dying in a huge explosion deep in space back in June 2016, and by chance the beam of gamma rays from that explosion headed toward Earth. Now, a new study claims that there is strong evidence for one of two competing models for how these gamma ray bursters, as they are known, produce such an incredible amount of energy.
The burst was first detected by two NASA satellites, which identified where in the sky they came from, and then sent the position to automated telescopes. These gamma ray bursters have been known for decades, but astronomers are still trying to figure out how they explode, and this provided a rare opportunity to gain insight on them.
Gamma ray bursts happen very quickly, and can come from all directions in the sky. They may last only tens of milliseconds or up to a minute at most, making it hard for us to catch one in action.
“Gamma-ray bursts are catastrophic events, related to the explosion of massive stars 50 times the size of our sun. If you ranked all the explosions in the universe based on their power, gamma-ray bursts would be right behind the Big Bang,” said Eleonora Troja, an assistant research scientist in the UMD Department of Astronomy and lead author of the research paper. “In a matter of seconds, the process can emit as much energy as a star the size of our sun would in its entire lifetime. We are very interested to learn how this is possible.”