An artist’s impression of a gamma ray burst triggered by a supernova explosion in which a doomed star’s core collapses to form a black hole. Powerful jets of material from the interior of the collapsing star are thought to generate high-energy gamma rays when they slam into the star’s shredded atmosphere. Image: NASA, ESA and M. Kornmesser
On 14 January, a suite of space- and ground-based telescopes detected the most powerful gamma ray burst ever seen, an mind-boggling flash from an exploding star that released more energy in a few seconds than the Sun will generate over its entire 10-billion-year life. The detected radiation was up to a trillion times more energetic than visible light.
The unusually brilliant and long-lived gamma ray burst, known as GRB 190114C, was studied by a suite of instruments, starting with NASA’s Swift and Fermi spacecraft as well as the Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov – MAGIC – telescopes on the Canary islands. Follow-up observations of the environment around the GRB were carried out by the Hubble Space Telescope.
“Hubble’s observations suggest that this particular burst was sitting in a very dense environment, right in the middle of a bright galaxy 5 billion light years ...