Astronomers see long gamma rays at the center of an ancient galaxy for the first time

about the episode

An international team of astronomers has observed for the first time a long gamma-ray burst near the center of an ancient galaxy. This is very special.

This gamma-ray burst, the most powerful and brightest explosion in the universe, usually occurs as massive stars collapse. Or when two large stars orbiting each other for a long time turn into neutron stars, colliding only in a kilonova. But you don’t find it in the middle of ancient galaxies.

Does this mean that there is a third way gamma ray bursts can occur? Principal investigator Andrew Levan of Radboud University says their data indicate a merger of two separate neutron stars. Without them all their lives would have revolved around each other. This intense encounter is believed to have occurred because the two stars were pushed together by the gravity of many other stars in their vicinity.

It’s very busy in the middle of the galaxies. There are hundreds of thousands of ordinary stars, white dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes and dust clouds all orbiting a supermassive black hole. All together, they relate to more than ten million stars and objects.

Researchers remain cautious. A long-period gamma ray burst can also be caused by the collision of other compact objects, such as black holes and white dwarfs.

If they succeed in observing long gamma-ray bursts simultaneously with gravitational waves in the future, they will be able to make more definitive data about the origin of the radiation.

Read more about research here: Long gamma rays appear for the first time in the center of an ancient galaxy.

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Megan Vasquez

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