An explosion the size of our solar system has baffled scientists, as part of its shape – similar to that of a very flat disk – defies everything we know about explosions in space.
The observed explosion was a fast blue bright burst of light (FBOT) – an extremely rare class of explosion that is much less common than other explosions, such as supernovae. The first bright FBOT was discovered in 2018 and dubbed the Cow.
Starbursts in the universe are almost always spherical in shape, as the stars themselves are spherical. However, this explosion, which occurred 180 million light-years away, is the most spherical ever seen in space, with a disc-like shape emerging just days after its discovery. This part of the explosion may have been caused by material being thrown out by the star just before it exploded.
It is still not clear how bright FBOT explosions occur, but it is hoped that this observation will be published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical SocietyIt will bring us closer to understanding it.
Dr Justin Maund, lead author of the study from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, said, “Very little is known about FBOT bursts – they don’t behave like supernovae, they’re very bright and they evolve very quickly. Simply put, they’re weird, and this new observation makes them even more so.” strangeness.”
“We hope that this new discovery will help us shed more light on them – we never thought explosions could be so non-spherical. There are a few possible explanations for this: the stars in question could have created a disk just before their death or it could be that these failed supernovae , where the star’s core collapses into a black hole or a neutron star, which then devours the rest of the star.”
“What we now know for sure is that the levels of asymmetry recorded are a key part of understanding these mysterious outbursts, and challenge our preconceived notions of how stars explode in the universe.”
Scientists made the discovery after spotting a completely polarized light flash by accident. They were able to measure the explosion’s polarization – using Polaroid-equivalent astronomical eyeglasses – with the Liverpool Telescope (owned by Liverpool John Moores University) located in La Palma.
By measuring the polarimetry, it allowed them to measure the shape of the explosion, effectively seeing something the size of our solar system but in a galaxy 180 million light-years away. Then they were able to use the data to reconstruct the 3D shape of the explosion, and were able to map the edges of the explosion – allowing them to see how flat it was.
The diameter of the Liverpool Telescope’s mirror is only 2.0 meters, but by studying the polarization, astronomers have been able to reconstruct the shape of the explosion as if it were a telescope with a diameter of about 750 kilometers.
The researchers will now conduct a new survey with the Vera Rubin International Observatory in Chile, which is expected to help discover more FBOTs and further understand them.
Justyn R Maund et al, A flicker of polarized optical light indicates a nearly spherical ‘cow’, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (2023). DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stad539
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