The source of the huge burst that spreads through our solar system has been determined by scientists.
The discovery could help understand gamma rays, the most powerful explosions in the universe.
The earth is hit by light and short gamma rays regularly, most days. But less often there are huge explosions, such as the recent GRB 200415A research, which carry with them energetic energy more powerful than our Sun.
The eruption appears to have originated from an unusual, powerful neutron star known as a magnetar, scientists say in new discoveries published in Natural astronomy.
“Our sun is just an ordinary star. When he dies, he will grow bigger and turn into a red giant star. It will then collapse into a small compact star called a white dwarf, “said Sobur Razzake of the University of Johannesburg, who is leading the study.
“But the stars, which are much more massive than the sun, play a different end game.”
Instead, such stars explode into a supernova and then leave behind a small compact star known as a neutron star. They are small – they could be packed in a space 12 miles long – but they are so dense that a spoon will weigh tons.
These stars are the creators of the most powerful explosions in the universe. Such explosions affect the telephone signal today, but they are also a way to look into the very beginning of space, coming with us as messengers to the universe when it was much younger.
The new study began in April last year – on the morning of April 15 – when a giant torch wave passed by Mars. A network of satellites, including the International Space Station, picked it up, triggering a study published today.
When GRB 200415A passed by Earth, this was not the first such explosion found on Earth. But it was unusual in a number of useful ways, including the fact that it came much closer to us than usual.
It was also the first such giant flare signal to be discovered since the launch of the Fermi space telescope in 2008. This means that researchers have been able to collect huge amounts of data in 140 milliseconds, which lasted, giving them a much better picture than him from a previous visitor who arrived 16 years ago.
And when the researchers were able to find the cause, they found that this was also unusual: it came from a magnet. There are only 30 such known objects in our entire Milky Way, made up of tens of thousands of neutron stars, and they can be a thousand times more magnetic than ordinary neutron stars.
The galaxy from which the eruption came is outside our own Milky Way, but only on a galactic scale. It is only 11.4 million light-years away.
Due to work in the run-up to last year’s explosion, researchers have created a detailed set of predictions of what a similar GRB might look like when it arrives on Earth. Professor Razzake, for example, had predicted 15 years ago that a giant eruption phase would involve two explosions, another closely following the first, and so they were able to compare these predictions with their existing research.
Scientists hope to be able to find even more and study them with even more detailed data. This could help explain not only the processes that allow such powerful explosions, but also use them as ways to understand the history of our cosmos.
“Although gamma-ray bursts explode from a star, we can detect them very early in the history of the universe. Even going back to a time when the universe was several hundred million years old,” Professor Razzake said in a statement.
“This is at an extremely early stage in the evolution of the universe. The stars that died at that time … we only find their gamma rays now because light takes time to travel.
“This means that gamma-ray bursts can tell us more about how the universe is expanding and evolving over time.”