Sunday, August 7

Mystery around the most extreme flashes of light in the universe


Astrophysicists from the ARC Center of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav), in Australia, have managed to elucidate some of the secrets behind the most extreme and distant light emissions that come from the deep universe: they analyzed one of these enormous flashes and discovered that they would be linked to bursts of gamma rays directed towards the Earth, although their weak record would prevent them from being detected with the technologies available today.

The “lighting system” that makes the universe glow is “powered” by light throughout the electromagnetic spectrum. And although much of this light originates from stars like the Sun and galaxies like ours, at the same time it can be observed periodically. flashes of light short and bright, overshadowing entire galaxies and whose provenance is still an enigma.

They are called transient astronomical phenomena, one of the most important themes for contemporary astronomy, which include very varied manifestations. However, it could be said that they are basically strong and sudden bursts of light that come from remote areas of the cosmos with respect to the position of the Milky Way.

Unknown and powerful

In October 2014, NASA’s Chandra Telescope detected one of these strange transient phenomena, which was identified as CDF-S XT1. It was a powerful flash of light that lasted for a few thousand seconds. According to experts, the amount of energy released in X-rays in this event can be compared to the energy produced by the Sun over a billion years.

The CDF-S XT1 observations also match the radiation predictions expected from a high-speed jet traveling close to the speed of light, according to the researchers. These fumes can only occur in extreme astrophysical conditions.

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Although their specific origin is still unknown, it is believed that they occur in cataclysmic cosmic eventssuch as the death of massive stars or the collision and merger of two neutron stars. Now, a new study published in arXiv could provide details in this regard, after analyzing another of these events.

Related Topic: A diffuse gamma ray glow illuminates the heart of the Milky Way.

Gamma rays are there, even if we don’t see them

According to a Press release, the researchers focused on a transitory phenomenon called AT2020blt, which was detected in January 2020. The emitted light appears to match the characteristic emanations during the collapse of a massive star or the integration of two neutron stars.

However, these bursts of light usually produce gamma rays of higher energy, which in this case were not observed in the data collected. According to the scientists’ conclusions, the transient phenomenon generated gamma rays pointed towards the Earth, but they were really weak and were not detected due to the limitations of our current instruments.

Together with other similar observations, this interpretation means that astronomy is getting closer to understanding the enigmatic problem of how gamma rays are producedgamma rays, in cataclysmic explosions throughout the universe. Technological advancement and the arrival of new tools will allow us to deepen our understanding of these mysterious phenomena even more.

Reference

Low-efficiency long gamma-ray bursts: A case study with AT2020blt. Sarin, Nikhil ; Hamburg, Rachel ; Burns, Eric ; Ashton, Gregory ; Lasky, Paul D. and Lamb, Gavin P. arXiv (2021).

Photo: Artistic illustration of a gamma ray burst. These emanations would be related to the most powerful and distant flashes of light, which come from deep space and can outshine large galaxies. In the new study, they could not be detected due to the weakness of the registries from current technologies. Credits: Carl Knox, OzGrav-Swinburne University.

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