Gamma-ray bursts are the most potent explosions now known to exist in the cosmos, and NASA’s Swift Observatory has discovered one that was very potent. These space-traveling jets of energy must be produced by something incredibly powerful, and supernovae—the collapse and explosion of massive stars—are theorized by scientists to be the cause of these phenomena.
A star must be extremely massive—at least eight times the size of the sun—in order to go supernova. However, a star must be between 30 and 40 times as massive as the sun for a supernova to create the strongest sort of gamma-ray burst. It is likely that we will only see anything of this magnitude once every ten years thanks to the rarity of this very powerful detection, which originated from such a potent star.
Astronomer Yvette Cendes, a postdoctoral scholar at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told Mashable that the incident was “extremely unusual.” What’s more, you shouldn’t worry. It took place in a galaxy 2 billion light-years away, and it was a wonderful explosion. Its energy, which has been moving and dispersing through space for eons, is safe from us at this distance. However, we can quickly find it using satellites. It’s like getting front-row seats to a fireworks display, Cendes said.
Gamma-ray bursts have never been observed by astronomers in our galaxy’s vicinity (meaning the local galaxies around us). This is due to the rarity of stellar explosions themselves. Around once every hundred years, a star in our Milky Way galaxy will go supernova. Cendes pointed out that in a galaxy of our size, a massive star, the kind required to produce an exceptionally bright and long (on the scale of several minutes) gamma-ray burst, only erupts approximately once per million years. Cendes declared, “This is exceedingly, incredibly rare.”
Because there are hundreds of billions of star-filled galaxies out in the deep cosmos, gamma-ray bursts can be detected from a great distance. Compared to the larger universe, there aren’t many chances for such an event to occur close to us. (Additionally, in order to see it, you must be looking in the direction of the blast’s “funnel” of energy emitted into space.) The detectors designed to detect these signals are incredibly sensitive because these gamma-ray bursts frequently occur many billions of light-years away. That’s another explanation for why this relatively “near” detection was so strong and vivid.
Cendes compared it to pointing a telescope at the sun. The explosion “ranks among the most brilliant occurrences known,” according to NASA, and “it saturated the detectors.” After such a dramatic collapse and explosion, you might be curious as to what happens to the exploded star now. Probably it changed into a black hole. According to NASA, “most black holes form from the remains of a big star that dies in a supernova explosion.”
Incredibly mysterious celestial objects are black holes. Black holes are regions where matter has been compressed extremely tightly. Earth would only be an inch across if it were hypothetically squashed into a black hole. The mass of our planet would be entirely contained within the object, which would still be incredibly huge. As a result, there will be a location with a gravitational pull so powerful that even light cannot escape. Stronger gravitational pulls are produced by objects with more mass.
With the help of large telescopes like the Submillimeter Array radio telescope atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii, astronomers like Cendes are currently observing the effects of the tremendous gamma-ray burst. Thus, the cosmos continues. A star perishes. The birth of a black hole. And 2 billion light-years away, sentient life notices it all occurring.