Earlier this month, a beam of light from the depths of the universe swept across the earth, causing several NASA orbiting probes to “temporarily blind”.
Within hours, dozens of telescopes around the world pointed to the source of the burst, confirming the discovery of the most powerful gamma-ray burst event to date, GRB 221009A.
Gamma Ray Bursts (GRBs) are the most energetic known types of explosions in the universe (other than the Big Bang), and they occur with a not uncommon frequency.
If the gamma-ray burst only lights up for a few milliseconds, it may be triggered by a neutron star collision; if the light lasts for a few minutes, it may represent a black hole just born from a supernova explosion.
On October 9 this year, the gamma-ray burst event GRB 221009A nicknamed “BOAT” was discovered by the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the Neil Grylls Swift Observatory, which attracted the attention of astronomers even more.
Its photons bombarded several NASA satellites for nearly 10 minutes, and the photons carried more energy (at least 18 TeV) than any photon ever measured,
Some are even 2 times more energetic than the most energetic particles (13 TeV) produced by the Large Hadron Collider.
The afterglow (the interaction of gamma rays with cosmic dust) after the outburst was also unusual, and although GRB221009A came from a galaxy blocked by dust, the outburst was powerful enough to ionize Earth’s atmosphere and disrupt long-wave radio communications.
Astronomers eventually found that the source of GRB221009A was about 2.4 billion light-years from Earth, and at least 50 telescopes are currently observing all wavelengths of the event, most likely caused by the collapse of a massive star 30 times the mass of the sun,
Astronomers are already starting to see the first signs of the supernova explosion that produced the GRB221009A event, which is expected to be “in full swing” in the coming weeks.
However, the source of the explosion is located in the sky just behind the sun, and it may not be observed in detail until GRB 221009A emerges from the other side of the sun in February next year.
The team wants to confirm whether the supernova explosion has synthesized heavy elements such as gold, and observing GRB 221009A in multiple wavelengths of light in the next few months may be the key to unlocking the secret of its origin.