NASA has detected the most powerful cosmic gamma-ray burst ever discovered by our telescopes. The explosion was so colossal that the high-energy radiation beam was 18 times more powerful than the previous record.
The high-energy pulse swept across the Earth
The origin, a powerful emission from a ‘gamma ray burst’ (GRB), the most powerful type of explosion in the universe, has been named GRB 221009A. It was captured on Sunday, October 9, when astronomers around the world were fascinated by this unusually bright and long-lasting pulse of high-energy radiation that swept through Earth , according to a NASA statement.
The signal was detected on October 9, but the explosion itself occurred 1.9 billion years ago. It came from the direction of the constellation of Sagitta (one of the three smaller constellations, within the perimeter of the Summer Triangle, the great asterism formed by the stars Deneb, Vega and Altair. The cosmic outburst was visible to telescopes for more than 10 hours , making it one of the longest-lived GRBs detected.
The most energetic to date
The energy of these events is usually measured in gigaelectron volts (GeV), but some have been recorded with energies of around 1 teraelectron volt (TeV). To show the uniqueness of this monstrous signal, its energy would have reached a record high of 18 TeV , marking the first detection of a GRB with energies greater than 10 TeV.
According to experts, it was probably caused by a supernova explosion that gave rise to a black hole . When this happens, a nascent black hole propels powerful jets of particles traveling near the speed of light through the star, emitting X-rays and gamma rays. The narrow beam of intense radiation can only be seen when the jet is pointed toward Earth, but such an event can be seen throughout the universe.
“Exceptionally long GRB 221009A is the brightest gamma-ray burst ever recorded, and its afterglow is breaking all records at all wavelengths,” said Brendan O’Connor, a graduate student at the University of Maryland and the University of Maryland. George Washington. “Because this outburst is so bright and so close, we think this is a once-in-a-century opportunity to address some of the most fundamental questions about these explosions, from the formation of black holes to testing models of dark matter.”
One only has to imagine a wave of X-rays and gamma rays passing through the solar system to realize the magnitude of this cosmic outburst. In fact, astronomers became aware that the event was happening when NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and the Wind spacecraft, among others, detected a wave of X-rays and gamma rays that They passed through the solar system.
The fact that it occurred ‘only’ 1.9 billion light-years away also explains why it shone for so long afterwards, because such bursts of energy are usually several billion light-years away or even more.
“This burst is much closer than typical GRBs, which is exciting because it allows us to detect a lot of detail that would otherwise be too faint to see,” said Roberta Pillera, an astronomer who led early communications on the burst. “But it’s also among the most energetic and luminous outbursts ever seen, regardless of distance, which makes it doubly exciting.”
Does it represent a danger to the Earth?
No way. Despite its intensity and proximity, this GRB is harmless. If it happened inside our Milky Way galaxy and its beam pointed directly at Earth, that would be another story: it could cause a mass extinction, but statistically it’s a very, very, very long shot.
Referencia: : International Gemini Observatory / NOIRLab / NSF / AURA / B. O’Connor, University of Maryland & George Washington University / J. Rastinejad & W. Fong, Northwestern University / T.A. Rector, University of Alaska Anchorage & NSF’s NOIRLab / J. Miller, M. Zamani & D. de Martin, NSF’s NOIRLab.