Striking Gamma Ray Burst Caught on Camera in Great Detail

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Lasting anywhere from a few milliseconds to around a minute, gamma-ray bursts are thought to be some of the most energetic and explosive events in the universe.  Through the use of various ground-based and satellite telescopes, including the robotic telescope MASTER-IAC of Moscow University, researchers have captured one these remarkable events in unprecedented detail.  The research was led by the University of Maryland and involved researchers from the Instituto de Astrfisica de Canarias (IAC).  They named the event GRB160625B.

Gamma Ray bursts are catastrophic events, related to the explosion of massive stars, some 50 times bigger than our sun,” explained the first author on the paper and UMD researcher, Eleonora Troja.  “If we classify all the explosions in the universe by their energy, gamma-ray bursts would be just less than the Big Bang.  In a matter of seconds, the process can emit as much energy as the sun during its whole lifetime.”  These observations uncovered new facts about how gamma-ray explosions evolve as dying stars collapse and transform into black holes.

Snapshot of burst via S.Karpov, G.Beskin (SAO RAS and Kazan Federal University, Russia), S.Bondar, E.Ivanov, E.Katkova, N.Orekhova, A.Perkov (OJS RPC PSI, Russia), A.Biryukov (SAI MSU and Kazan Federal University, Russia), V.Sasyuk (Kazan Federal University, Russia)

The data from the observation revealed that the jets in which energy is emitted are controlled by the magnetic field of the black hole.  As the magnetic field begins to decay the jets become dominated by the matter instead.  “A few seconds after the detection of a gamma-ray burst by NASA’s Fermi satellite the robotic telescope MASTER-IAC began to observe this highly energetic phenomenon at visible wavelengths, which lasted only a few seconds.  This allowed us to measure the polarization of the emitted radiation and in this way learn about the nature of the physical processes involved,” said Rafael Rebolo, director of the IAC and one of the study’s authors.

Rebelo also advised that with the help of the CTA (Cherenkov Telescope Array) that’s to be installed on La Palma, scientists will soon be able to observe this kind of phenomena in much greater detail.  From the observation, the researchers deduced that electrons which accelerate along a curved/spiral trajectory activate the first initial brightness of the gamma-ray burst.  This period is known as the rapid phase.

“Our study gives convincing proof that the sudden emission of gamma rays is driven by synchrotron radiation,” confirms Eleonora Troja.  “This is an important achievement because in spite of decades of research the physical mechanism which drives gamma-ray bursts had not been precisely identified.”  The first of the telescopes to detect the gamma ray Emison was NASA’s Gamma Ray Space Telescope.  This was then followed by MASTER-IAC robotic telescope in Moscow.

Research File:

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