Gamma-ray bursts: What are they?

gamma ray burst proposed image

Gamma Ray Bursts known as GRBs are THE MOST ENERGETIC events since Big Bang! Their release indicates the fusion of binary neutron stars or the explosion of high luminous supernova and supernova which then form either a neutron star or a black hole. Followed by their release is the “afterglow” which is longer lived and emits longer wavelengths…

Their duration usually lasts from milliseconds to several hours and is observed only in distant galaxies outside the Milky Way. That’s good since in a few seconds they can emit as much energy as the Sun will in its entire 10 billion-year lifespan! Imagine the impact that could have been…. no time for an apocalypse, right?

Scientists were not looking for them in fact they stumbled upon them in a very dramatic way. In 1967 observations from the Vela satellite led, which was designed to detect gamma-ray pulses from nuclear weapons tested in space. Turns out the US thought that the emissions were from secret tests conducted by the Soviet Union. Thankfully before things could go south the reason was detected. But the causes were not hypothesized until 1997 when a strong afterglow led scientists to study it better. Their observations led scientists to believe that these rays were coming from very distant sources.

gamma-ray pulses

Types of Gamma Ray Bursts

According to a research paper published by Z. Bagoly et al. there are three sub-groups of gamma-ray bursts statistically but the physical significance of the third sub-group i.e. the intermediary subgroup cannot have a different physical explanation. So we will discuss the other two types or subgroups of GRBs: short & long bursts.

Short bursts usually last for 2 seconds and are much more energetic than long bursts. Astronomers believe that the core collapse of hypernovas is the reason for long bursts. The sources for short bursts are enigmatic but the most acceptable theory is that they are released as a result of binary neutron star fusion. One of the reasons can also be the observation of hypernova from a specific angle.

types of gamma ray burst

What’s New?

Recently researchers found that there were ultra-long gamma-ray bursts of about a travel time of 11.6 billion years! The interesting part is the interruption in the signal that occurred for 600 seconds. The possible explanation according to astronomers for this is that the magnetar left behind by the supernova released a burst of gamma rays due to a strong magnetic field. The second burst is released when the unstable magnetar collapsed into a neutron star or black hole.

These studies once published will open possibilities for new outlooks into this interesting phenomenon!

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