Once in 10 thousand years: Recorded the brightest gamma-ray flash in the Universe

Scientists conducted a study of the gamma-ray flash, which was detected by detectors on October 9, 2022, and made a stunning conclusion – it was the brightest and most powerful flash ever seen in the Universe. The team of scientists confirmed that the burst was about 70 times brighter than anything previously recorded.

The GRB 221009A gamma-ray flash was detected by the XMM-Newton Observatory of the European Space Agency

The astronomical team believes that the explosion of 2022 is an event that happens once every 10 thousand years. A new study detailing aspects of the flash is published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters

The University of Sydney report noted that the flash was so bright that most gamma-ray instruments in space could not measure its true intensity – they were literally blinded by the light.

The burst called GRB 221009A was the brightest flash of X-rays and gamma rays since the beginning of human civilization,” said astrophysicist Eric Burns from Louisiana State University, co–author of the study. For this, the flash received the title BOAT, or “the brightest of all time”.

For several weeks after the first flash, X-ray light was scattered from dust in the Milky Way on its way to us. This led to the appearance of several dust rings that expanded outward in the direction of the explosion. The nearest ring is about 1,300 light–years away, and the most distant is about 61,000 light-years away, on the other side of the Milky Way.

The most powerful explosions in the Universe

Gamma–ray flashes are the most powerful explosions in the Universe. There are long-term and short-term gamma-ray flashes. Long bursts are any flashes lasting for a little more than two seconds. According to NASA, short events are more often associated with the merger of stars and the formation of black holes, while longer flares are associated with supernovae.

A graphic showing how the jets of a black hole emit gamma rays through the Universe. Graphic material: NASA Goddard Research Center

In the event of the death of stars, massive, super-energetic jets of material are sometimes generated, similar to those escaping from pulsars. When these jets are directed right at the Earth, it makes the gamma rays especially bright from our point of view.

Gamma rays can soon be used to detect gravitational waves, which are ripples in space-time caused by huge events such as black hole mergers.

Earlier we reported how a jet of gas in a distant galaxy turned in our direction.

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