Gamma-ray burst

  • IASbaba
  • July 28, 2021
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Gamma-ray burst

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Space

In news A group of astronomers have detected a very short, powerful burst of high-energy radiation that lasted for about a second and had been racing toward Earth for nearly half the present age of the universe. 

  • The burst detected by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope on August 26, 2020, turned out to be one the shortest gamma-ray burst (GRB) caused by the death of a massive star.
  • From India, The Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune (IUCAA), National Centre for Radio Astrophysics – Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Pune (NCRA) and IIT Mumbai also participated in this work.
  • The burst emitted 14 million times the energy released by the entire Milky Way galaxy over the same amount of time, making it one of the most energetic short-duration GRBs ever seen.

What are gamma-ray bursts (GRB)? 

  • GRBs are the most powerful events in the universe, detectable across billions of light-years. 
  • Astronomers classify them as long or short based on whether the event lasts for more or less than two seconds. 
  • They observe long bursts in association with the demise of massive stars, while short bursts have been linked to a different scenario.
  • This recent identification of GRBs showed for the first time that a dying star can produce short bursts too. 
  • When a star much more massive than the Sun runs out of fuel, its core suddenly collapses and forms a black hole. 
  • As matter swirls toward the black hole, some of it escapes in the form of two powerful jets that rush outward at almost the speed of light in opposite directions.
  • Astronomers only detect a GRB when one of these jets happens to point almost directly toward Earth.

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