This frame from an animation illustrates data collected in the aftermath of a gamma ray burst, showing a “radio rebound” shock wave that shed light on the processes at work in such cataclysmic explosions. Image: NRAO Outreach
Astronomers using telescopes across the electromagnetic spectrum and the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA) studied a cataclysmic stellar explosion known as a gamma-ray burst, or GRB, and found its enduring “afterglow.”
The rebound, or reverse shock, triggered by the GRB’s powerful outflows slamming into surrounding debris, lasted thousands of times longer than expected. These observations provide fresh insights into the physics of GRBs, one of the universe’s most energetic explosions.
In the blink of an eye, a massive star more than 2 billion light years away lost a million-year-long fight against gravity and collapsed, triggering a supernova and forming a black hole at its centre.
This newborn black hole belched a fleeting yet astonishingly intense flash of gamma rays known as a gamma-ray burst toward Earth, where it was detected by NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory on Dec. 19, 2016.
While the gamma rays from the burst disappeared from view a scant seven seconds later, longer wavelengths of light from the explosion – ...