Astronomers say the cosmic explosion that blinded space instruments may be the brightest ever.
The explosion, which occurred 2 billion light-years from Earth in October, sent a pulse of intense radiation sweeping through the solar system, triggering detectors on multiple spacecraft.
Scientists said the event was a gamma-ray burst (GRB), which is known to be one of the most powerful and bright explosions in the universe.
It was the brightest ever seen since the beginning of human civilization, astronomers said, blinding most gamma-ray instruments in space.
This meant that the researchers could not measure the true intensity of emissions, and had to reconstruct energy expenditure from past and current data.
An analysis of 7,000 GRBs indicates that the event, dubbed GRB 221009A, was 70 times brighter than any other and only occurs once every 10,000 years.
“There is nothing in human experience that comes anywhere close to such a flow,” said Dr Dan Perley of the Astrophysical Research Institute at Liverpool John Moores University – who followed the event with the university’s Liverpool telescope on the Spanish island of La Palma. of energy. nothing “.
Although they only last for a matter of seconds, GRBs produce about the same amount of energy that the Sun would waste in its lifetime.
Huge amount of energy
GRB 221009A produced an “enormous amount of energy,” said Dr. Burley, adding: “It is certainly the highest value ever recorded for a gamma-ray burst.”
The explosion deposited about a gigawatt of energy into Earth’s upper atmosphere, according to the European Space Agency (ESA), which is equivalent to the energy output of a power plant.
Astronomers believe that GRB 221009A was the result of a massive star collapsing in on itself to form a black hole.
“The star was many times more massive than the Sun, probably 20 times or more,” Dr. Burley said.
The GRB was much closer to Earth than the others
GRB 221009A was thought to be so bright because it was much closer to Earth than other known GRBs and the beam of electromagnetic radiation was pointing in the direction of the planet.
GRBs also produce supernovae, but astronomers are not yet sure if that happened in this case.
It is usually followed by a shock wave emitting lower energy radiation, known as an afterglow, which gradually fades over time.
The results have been published in two separate papers in the Astrophysical Journal and Astrophysical Journal Letters.