The world’s largest radio telescope captures the glowing aftermath of colliding stars

The world’s largest radio telescope captures the glowing aftermath of colliding stars
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On Wednesday, astronomers offered us with a mysterious video: pictures adorned with consistently evolving lime-green spots in opposition to a darkish background. However proper in the course of this recording, one spot just isn’t just like the others. It is the brightest neon stain ever and it will get higher with each body.

What you are seeing is proof that some 20 billion years in the past, an ultra-powerful neutron star collided with a fainter star, spewing out an explosive, short-lived burst of gamma rays, rippling gravitational waves via the cosmos and diffusing the encircling house with a strong glow. It was a devastating merger that occurred when the universe was solely 40% of its present age, and our outstanding view of its incident comes courtesy of the world’s largest radio telescope, the Atacama Massive Millimeter/submillimeter Array, positioned in Chile.

Extra particularly, ALMA is a mixture of 66 radio telescopes unfold throughout the high-altitude Chilean Andes. They usually work collectively to present us info concerning the violent aspect of our universe.

“Quick-burst afterglows are very laborious to seek out, so it was spectacular to seize this occasion shining so brightly,” Wen-fai Fong, an astronomer at Northwestern College and principal investigator of the ALMA program, mentioned in an announcement. “This stunning discovery opens up a brand new space of ​​examine, because it motivates us to watch many extra of those with ALMA and different telescope arrays sooner or later.”

The primary time-lapse video of the afterglow of a quick gamma-ray burst captured at millimeter wavelengths by ALMA

ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), T. Laskar (Utah), S. Dagnello (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

Particulars of Fong and his fellow researchers’ findings will quickly be printed in an upcoming subject of The Astrophysical Journal Letters. For now, a preprint is on the market to view on arXiv.

An incomprehensible power of nature.

Quick-lived gamma-ray bursts, like this one formally named GRB 211106A, are among the most intense and mind-blowing explosions identified to science. However in contrast to the longer-lived ones, they remained a thriller resulting from their fleeting nature, till 2005, when NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory collected information on one for the primary time.

In a matter of seconds, these cosmic jets can emit extra power than our solar will ever emit. full lifetime. Though such an excessive is sensible to them, as a result of these phenomena stem from binary star collisions involving at the least one neutron star, a hyperdense ball of fuel that rivals even black holes in gravitational monstrosity.

Just one tablespoon of a neutron star it could be equal to one thing like the burden of Mount Everest.

The world’s largest radio telescope captures the glowing aftermath of colliding stars

A nonetheless picture of two neutron stars about to merge. Exchange one with a standard star and it’s possible you’ll be imagining what occurred way back to the cosmic topics of this new examine.

NASA Goddard House Flight Heart/CI Laboratory

“These mergers happen resulting from gravitational-wave radiation eradicating power from the binary stars’ orbit, inflicting the celebrities to spiral towards one another,” Tanmoy Laskar, lead creator of the examine, mentioned in an announcement. astronomer at Radboud College. . “The ensuing explosion is accompanied by jets shifting at near the velocity of sunshine. When considered one of these jets is pointed at Earth, we observe a brief pulse of gamma-ray radiation, or a short-lived GRB.”

That is the vivid inexperienced sign we see within the current burst recording.

The ALMA expertise

The truth that the examine staff used ALMA to find this specific outburst marks the primary time that such an occasion has been captured at millimeter wavelengths, the specialty of the Chilean telescope.

Though this dramatic collision had already been studied with NASA’s Hubble House Telescope, it was solely seen within the guise of optical and infrared wavelengths of sunshine. At these wavelengths, Hubble may mainly solely estimate details about the distant galaxy wherein this merger occurred, however not a lot concerning the afterglow that adopted. Even when the company’s groundbreaking James Webb House Telescope does in the future embark on a mission to research GRB 21106A, it too will likely be restricted to wavelengths of infrared gentle, albeit in a wider spectrum.

ALMA, alternatively, was capable of see one thing totally different than what Hubble noticed at its millimeter wavelengths; in actual fact, it captured the afterglow of GRB 21106A. And after some deliberation, the brand new examine staff acknowledged that the glow from this transient gamma-ray burst is among the many most luminescent ever seen.


This view reveals a number of of ALMA’s antennas and the central areas of the Milky Method above.


“What makes GRB 211106A so particular is that it’s not solely the primary short-lived GRB now we have detected at this wavelength, but additionally, because of millimeter and radio detection, we have been capable of measure the opening angle of the jet. Rouco Escorial, examine co-author and astronomer at Northwestern College, in an announcement.

Sooner or later, such data may show important for inferring the charges of such GRBs in our universe and evaluating them to the charges of double neutron star mergers and even perhaps black gap mergers.

“ALMA breaks the taking part in subject by way of its capabilities at millimeter wavelengths and has allowed us to see the faint, dynamic universe in one of these gentle for the primary time,” mentioned Fong. “After a decade of observing quick GRBs, it’s really wonderful to witness the ability of utilizing these new applied sciences to unwrap shock presents from the universe.”

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