Astronomers detect highest energy radiation ever seen in cosmic explosions

James Marshall
November 21, 2019

When very big stars run out of fuel they collapse under their own gravity and, in a last hurrah, send out a blast of light and matter in the most violent known explosions in the universe.

Gamma ray bursts (GRBs), sharp jets of gamma rays that lengthen from gloomy holes, will probably be created in two so a lot of suggestions - ensuing in long or short GRBs.

"Extremely energetic cosmic explosions generate gamma-ray burst, typically lasting for only a few tens of seconds".

They occur so distant they will exclusively be detected when the beams are pointed immediately at Earth and might final from just a few milliseconds to some hours. "Astronomers think they come from colliding neutron stars or from supernovae - events in which stars run out of fuel, give in to their own gravity, and collapse into black holes".

She said: "The bursts themselves usually only last a few seconds".

For this study they instead used ground-based telescopes to observe events billions of light years from our planet.

The burst was named GRB 190114C and, inside 22 seconds, its coordinates have been despatched to astronomers throughout the globe.

Two of the Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov (MAGIC) telescopes on the Canary Islands were the first to survey the bursts, detecting particles of light measuring 0.2 and one tera electron volts (TeV). In essence, the photons and electrons "shake hands and exchange their energies - the photons get the very high energy, and the electrons lose the energy", Razmik Mirzoyan, an astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Physics in Munich, co-author of two of the new papers and a spokesperson for MAGIC, told

"The telescopes were able to observe the burst within 50 seconds of it appearing in the sky", he said. Such extreme amounts of energy can only be released during catastrophic events like the death of a massive star, or the merging of two compact stars, and are accompanied by an afterglow of light over a broad range of wavelengths (or equivalently energies), that fades with time.

The researchers, including those from George Washington University in the USA, detected a burst on 14 January labeled GRB 190114C, which led to a collaborative effort to observe the radiation coming from the source using more than 20 observatories and instruments around the world. The GRB phenomenon was only identified 46 years ago.

"It's a trillion times more energetic than visible light", Gemma Anderson, one of the authors of the study from the Curtin University division of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research in Australia, said in a statement.

More than 20 other telescopes and observatories around the world focused their attention onto the spot to watch the celestial fireworks.

The ejected material is then forced through the gas surrounding the star, triggering a monstrous shockwave that creates the GRB itself.

The very high-energy gamma rays are given off by matter that is accelerated to very close to the speed of light as it whirls around the black hole.

Co-author Dr Paul Kuin, of UCL, said: "Since launching in 2004, Swift has greatly increased our understanding of gamma-ray bursts which occur nearly daily in the sky and are characterised by brief, but intense, flashes followed by an afterglow which fades over time".

'We have now viewed extraordinarily high-vitality light is launched within the afterglow length - one thing that turned into finest predicted before in models.

The photons detected from a gamma-ray burst six months earlier, in July 2018, weren't as energetic or as numerous as those from the January explosion.

The fresh results provide the principle unequivocal proof for a distinct emission direction of within the afterglow of a gamma ray burst.

"These are by far the highest energy photons ever discovered from a gamma-ray burst", said Elisa Bernardini, leader of the MAGIC group at Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron, a research group studying high energy physics in Germany.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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