A sonic boom from an unseen cosmic explosion

The gigantic eruption, known as a Gamma Ray Burst (GRB), was generated by the collapse of a colossal star, in a galaxy nearly 300 million light years from Earth

For years, astronomers have been pursuing all over the sky for an instance of a strange phenomenon, known as an "orphan afterglow." In the process, the star collapses into either a dense star called a magnetar, or a black hole. Typically, GRBs release an extraordinary amount of energy, as much as the Sun would release over ten billion years.

The blast produces two jets of gamma rays which travel out from the collapsing star in opposite directions at near the speed of light. When these jets are pointed at Earth, astronomers see these focused outbursts of energy as intense flashes of gamma-rays.

The study team consisted of researchers from the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto and University of California at Berkeley, and published its findings in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. The discovery offers vital new insight into the nature of GRBs and their jets. Given that GRBs are pointed in haphazard directions comparative to us, the part we see from Earth hinges on how narrow or wide the jets are.


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