“An unusual and intense explosion of energy” – this is what scientists said about the explosion coming from a nearby galaxy, which recorded an unprecedented amazing phenomenon. The event only lasted 50 seconds, and it occurred in December 2021. Now, after months of analyzing the data, scientists have finally figured out why.
The explosion, which was noticed by ground-based detectors more than a year ago, surprised even seasoned scientists. “This event was unlike anything we’ve seen before,” one of them claimed when he found out how much energy was hitting the Earth at that time.
Understanding the origins of the phenomenon called GRB 211211A has been a priority for astronomers because it could contribute to changing our understanding of the universe.
A breakthrough in the study of cosmic energy flares
The unprecedented 50-second burst of radiation, known as a gamma-ray burst, or GRB, was among the most powerful cosmic explosion ever recorded. So scientists began looking for the glow such events leave in the sky.
It seems that the intense wave of energy detected on Earth comes from the collision and collapse of two stars, according to the online edition of the British newspaper The Independent.
Scientists reviewing archival observations of cosmic gamma rays said they found “oscillating” signals in two bursts of energy. They were discovered in older data from a completed Earth orbit experiment. According to the researchers, the flares have the characteristics one would expect from the merger of two neutron stars to form a single supermassive object, called a kilonova.
The collision of neutron stars causes huge bursts of energy
Neutron stars are dense cores left over from the death of massive stars. When two such objects collide, more massive neutron stars can form, usually collapsing under their own mass to form a black hole.
The latest discovery is presented in the article Quasi-periodic kilohertz vibrations in short bursts of gamma rays. Published January 9 in the journal Nature confirms previous assumptions.
Researchers studying the phenomenon called GRB 211211A have shown through simulations that the presence of massive neutron stars can be determined by certain types of gamma-ray bursts that come from their collisions.
And so, scientists led by Cecilia Cherenti of the University of Maryland examined 700 gamma-ray observations in search of these specific “fingerprints”. They managed to find two such candidates. Dubbed GRB 910711 and GRB 931101B, they have frequencies that scientists have theorized as evidence of neutron star mergers.
The data was provided by a long-decommissioned satellite
Both examples are found using BATSE (Impulse Source and Transient Experiment). A satellite equipped with this instrument has been launched into Earth orbit to study gamma-ray bursts. He held this position until 2000, when NASA decided to end its nine-year search for cosmic energy explosions.
However, that hasn’t stopped scientists from reviewing and analyzing the data obtained in this way in hopes of finding previously overlooked information. Experts hope this will be the beginning of a new way to study neutron star mergers.
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