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Scientists finally have explanation for incredibly bright light that came from deep in space

The Independent
The Independent
 2022-01-18

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Scientists say they finally have an explanation for a mystifying, bright blue light that came from deep in space.

Three years ago, astronomers were stunned to see a bright blue flash that came out of the spiral arm of a distant galaxy, some 200 million light-years away.

The initial detection of the event known as AT2018cow happened in June 2018, when it was seen by a survey in Hawaii, which quickly sent out global alerts to tell other telescopes to look towards it. They saw a bright flash 100 times brighter than the usual supernova , the brightest explosion humanity has seen.

It looked like a supernova, but it was even brighter and faster than those already extreme events. Scientists struggled to explain it, and it became known as a fast blue optical transient, or FBOT, with no explanation of how it happened.

Further detail on the event only seemed to make it more puzzling. Scientists found that it consisted not only of the bright flash of light, but also pulsing and powerful X-rays, with hundreds of millions of such pulses being traced back to the same object.

Those pulses happened regularly, every 4.4 miliseconds, over a period of 60 days.

Scientists used those pulses to calculate that the source of the X-rays must be no more than 1,000 kilometres wide, and have a mass less than 800 suns. That would seem to suggest that it is something compact, such a small black hole or a neutron star.

As such, it appears that the mystifying flash probably happened as a star was dying – as it collapsed, it gave birth to a baby black hole or neutron star. That went onto eat the material that surrounded it, swallowing up the star, releasing intense bursts of energy as it went.

That is the conclusion presented in a new paper, ‘Evidence for a Compact Object in the Aftermath of the Extra-Galactic Transient AT2018cow’, published in Nature Astronomy .

“We have likely discovered the birth of a compact object in a supernova,” says lead author Dheeraj “DJ” Pasham, a research scientist at MIT. “This happens in normal supernovae, but we haven’t seen it before because it’s such a messy process. We think this new evidence  opens possibilities for finding baby black holes or baby neutron stars.”

Previous attempts to explain the flash have suggested that it could be a black hole being born in a supernova, or a star ripping the material from another passing star. But astronomers have never been able to satisfactorily explain the flash using only optical data – which led the researchers behind the new paper to look at the X-ray energy too.

That led them to examine the regular pulses, which could be used to learn more about the object that was sending them. That ruled out an intermediate black hole and led scientists to the current explanation, they said.

The same techniques could be used to help better understand other fast blue optical transients in the same family, scientistssay.

“Whenever there’s a new phenomenon, there’s excitement that it could tell something new about the universe,” Pasham says. “For FBOTs, we have shown we can study their pulsations in detail, in a way that’s not possible in the optical. So, this is a new way to understand these newborn compact objects.”

Comments / 135

Steak, The New 30....!!!!!
01-18

It was a Disco Ball that was sent into space to mark the end of the Disco Era…and that’s the Group Earth, Wind and Fire returning to Jam just one more time….and should be here “In September”….!!!!!!

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Perry Jones
01-18

scientists don't even believe in God, but they want you to accept their explanation, which is a lie. I'm quite sure they have met ETs. Or seen the hand of angels or God.

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B-Style
01-19

how can scientist believe in God when they only believe in what goes up must come down?? unless your in space it's okay not to come back down..our father god walked on water do you REALLY think a scientist is gonna believe that?? point proven so there's a scientific god and there's a spiritual god according to this world that we're living in..pick a side cause the world is coming to an end brother's and sister's

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