Mystery Surrounding the Brightest Cosmic Explosion ever Discovered Continues to intrigue

Scientists have made a groundbreaking discovery regarding the origin of the most intense burst of light ever documented.

However, in their pursuit, they have encountered two perplexing enigmas, one of which raises uncertainty about the origins of our precious heavy elements, such as gold.

Researchers have revealed that the burst of light observed in 2022 was caused by an exploding star at its core.

However, the explosion alone would not have been enough to emit such a brilliant light.

According to our current understanding, it is believed that supernovas, which are stars that explode, are responsible for creating all the heavy elements in the universe, including gold and platinum.

However, the team did not discover any of these elements, which has sparked further inquiries into the production of precious metals.

Prof Catherine Heymans of Edinburgh University and Scotland’s Astronomer Royal, who is independent of the research team, believes that findings such as these play a crucial role in advancing scientific knowledge.

“The Universe is a fascinating, awe-inspiring, and unpredictable realm, and I’m captivated by the way it presents us with these perplexing puzzles!”

“The fact that it is not providing us with the desired answers is actually a positive thing, as it allows us to revisit our ideas and generate improved theories,” she expressed.

When massive stars explode after their deaths, the outcome is a supernova

An explosion was detected by telescopes in October 2022. From a far-off galaxy 2.4 billion light-years away, light was emitted across all frequencies. However, the intensity of the gamma rays was particularly high, as they are a more powerful and penetrating type of X-rays.

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An incredibly intense burst of gamma rays occurred, lasting a staggering seven minutes. The sheer magnitude of this event was so immense that it completely overwhelmed the instruments responsible for detecting it. Further analysis revealed that the burst displayed an unprecedented level of brightness, surpassing any previous recorded observations. This remarkable event earned it the nickname among astronomers as the Brightest Of All Time or B.O.A.T.

Gamma ray bursts are often linked to the explosive aftermath of supernovas, but the sheer brilliance of this particular event posed a perplexing challenge for scientists to unravel. Based on the current theory, the size of this object would have had to be incredibly massive if it were a supernova.

The burst was incredibly bright, causing a momentary disruption to the instruments on Nasa’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The telescope had just become operational, which was a fortunate event for astronomers interested in studying this rare phenomenon. These powerful explosions are estimated to happen only once every 10,000 years.

Amidst the fading glow, JWST’s advanced instrument detected evidence of a supernova explosion. However, it did not live up to their expectations in terms of its power. So why was the burst of gamma rays so exceptionally intense?

In cosmic explosions, all the gold that exists on Earth was created

Dr Peter Blanchard, who co-led the research team, is uncertain. However, he is eager to discover. He intends to allocate additional time on JWST to explore additional supernova remnants.

“It’s possible that these gamma ray bursts and supernova explosions may not be directly connected to each other, suggesting that they could be distinct phenomena,” he shared with BBC News.

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According to Dr Tanmoy Laskar, a co-leader of the study from the University of Utah, the power of the B.O.A.T could potentially be attributed to the ejection of material in the form of jets, a phenomenon commonly observed during supernovas. However, when these jets are narrow, they create a more concentrated and therefore more intense beam of light.

“It’s similar to directing the light from a torch into a concentrated stream, rather than spreading it out to cover a larger area,” he explained. “Interestingly, this was one of the most compact jets observed for a gamma ray burst to date, providing us with a clue as to why the afterglow appeared exceptionally luminous.”

A fresh perspective on theory

But what about the gold that has gone missing?

Astronomers at university are taught the prevailing theory that heavy elements like gold, platinum, lead, and uranium are formed in the intense conditions of supernovas. These are scattered throughout the galaxy and play a role in the creation of planets, according to the theory, explaining the origin of the metals discovered on Earth.

However, the researchers did not discover any signs of heavy elements in the vicinity of the star that had exploded. So, is the theory incorrect and heavy elements are generated through alternative means, or are they exclusively formed in supernovas under specific circumstances?

“Theorists should reconsider the factors contributing to the lack of heavy element production in the B.O.A.T event, despite the predictions made by theories and simulations,” suggests Dr. Blanchard.

The research has been published in a prestigious scientific journal.

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