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  • Writer's picturePrabhjot Singh Maan

Record-breaking Gamma-ray Burst possibly most powerful explosion ever recorded!

Updated: Oct 25, 2022


Astronomers using the Gemini South telescope in Chile, which is run by the NSF's NOIRLab, captured the unusual aftermath of Gamma-Ray Burst GRB221009A in the early hours of today, October 14, 2022.


This record-breaking event, which occurred 2.4 billion light-years from Earth and was likely caused by a supernova explosion giving birth to a black hole, was discovered for the first time on October 9, 2022, by orbiting X-ray and gamma-ray telescopes.


Astronomers from all over the world erupted in activity as they hurried to analyse the aftermath of one of the nearest and arguably the most intense gamma-ray bursts (GRB) ever seen, which was caused by a colossal cosmic explosion.


The bright, glowing remnants of the explosion, which most likely signalled a supernova giving birth to a black hole, were the focus of recently published observations made by two independent teams using the Gemini South telescope in Chile, one of the twin telescopes of the International Gemini Observatory run by NSF's NOIRLab.


The GRB, identified as GRB 221009A, occurred approximately 2.4 billion light-years away in the direction of the constellation Sagitta.


It was first detected the morning of 9 October by X-ray and gamma-ray space telescopes, including NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, and the Wind spacecraft.


As word of this detection quickly spread, two teams of astronomers worked closely with staff at the Gemini South to obtain the earliest-possible observations of the afterglow of this historic explosion.


Brendan O'Connor (University of Maryland/George Washington University) and Jillian Rastinejad, two distinct teams of observers, led two Rapid Target of Opportunity imaging observations in the early morning hours of Friday, October 14. (Northwestern University).


The FLAMINGOS-2 instrument, a near-infrared imaging spectrograph, was employed for the initial observation.


The Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph was employed for the additional observation (GMOS).


The teams now have access to both datasets for their analyses of this energetic and evolving event.


"The exceptionally long GRB 221009A is the brightest GRB ever recorded and its afterglow is smashing all records at all wavelengths," said O'Connor.

"Because this burst is so bright and also nearby, we think this is a once-in-a-century opportunity to address some of the most fundamental questions regarding these explosions, from the formation of black holes to tests of dark matter models."

This image was promptly created shortly after the observations because of the quick responses of the observers and staff, the utilisation of Gemini Director's Discretionary Time, and effective data-reduction tools like Gemini's DRAGONS "FIRE" (Fast Initial Reduction Engine).


South Telescope in Chile


"The agility and responsiveness of Gemini's infrastructure and staff are hallmarks of our observatory and have made our telescopes go-to resources for astronomers studying transient events," said Gemini Chief Scientist Janice Lee.

Black holes produce strong jets of particles that are accelerated to almost the speed of light as they develop.


Then, as these jets rip through the progenitor star's remnants, they discharge X-rays and gamma rays into space.


These jets are seen as intense flashes of X-rays and gamma rays if they are oriented in the general direction of Earth.


Another gamma-ray burst this bright may not appear for decades or even centuries and the case is still evolving.


Of note are other extraordinary reports of disturbances in the Earth's ionosphere affecting long wave radio transmissions from the energetic radiation from the GRB221009A event.


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Edited by: Prabhjot Singh Maan ( LinkedIn )

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