After decades of research astronomers have spotted the biggest light emission in the universe. It came from two explosions. The intense radiation as a result of gamma ray bursts occurred in galaxies billions of light years away from Earth and was detected by NASA satellites in July 2018 and January 2019.
Gamma ray bursts are the most powerful explosions in the universe and scientists presume they are the result of supernovae – and event that occurs when stars reach the end of their life cycle and collapse into black holes or neutron stars, releasing radiation that flies across the universe. Gamma ray bursts appear without warning and last for several seconds, but they release as much energy in just a few second as the Sun will produce during its whole lifetime. They begin with an intense flash of light followed by an afterglow.
First spotted during the Cold War by space-based satellites, gamma ray bursts were never detected on Earth’s surface until now. Astronomers were able to spot them after NASA satellites alerted a team at MAGIC – Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov Telescopes – and pointed the telescopes in the direction of the outburst.
Scientists detected the highest-energy photons ever discovered from a gamma-ray burst – 1 tera electron volt or 1 trillion electron volts.
"Although long anticipated, the detection of TeV gamma rays from GRBs had been an extremely challenging endeavour. It was finally realised here with very high significance for the first time, after many years of technical improvements and dedicated efforts", said Masahiro Teshima, from the Institute for Cosmic Ray Research at the University of Tokyo.
Now scientists hope that the new finding could help them delve deeper into the mysterious phenomena of gamma ray bursts. More findings are expected when they switch to the Cherenkov Telescope Array, made up of more than 100 telescopes and able to detect gamma rays over a larger area and wider range.