For the first time, researchers have captured millimeter-wave light originating from a neutron star colliding with another star. A team of researchers led by astrophysicists from Northwestern University and Radboud University in the Netherlands claim that the flash from this collision was one of the most energetic short-duration gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) ever observed. one. The GRB is considered the most energetic explosion in the universe, releasing more energy in a matter of seconds than the sun has released during its entire existence.
They can happen when objects like stars collide or form a new black hole. While six such gamma-ray bursts have been observed before, all of them were recorded at longer wavelengths.
However, by using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international observatory operated by the National Science Foundation’s National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), scientists were able to record this GRB, labeled GRB 211106A, at millimeter wavelengths.
“This brief gamma-ray burst is our first attempt to observe such an event with ALMA,” said Wen-fai Fong, principal investigator of the ALMA project at Northwestern University.
Located in Chile’s high-altitude Atacama Desert, the ALMA Array consists of 66 radio telescopes and is the largest such installation in the world.
“The afterglow of a brief outburst is difficult to obtain, so capturing this event so bright is spectacular. After years of observing these outbursts, this surprising discovery opens up a new area of research,” added Fond.
Millimeter wavelengths, combined with X-rays, help to better understand the true energy of the explosion. Since millimeter-wavelength emissions can be detected for longer than X-rays, they can also be used to determine the width of GRB jets.
Thanks to the millimeter-wave and radio detection of GRB 211106A, the researchers hope to be able to measure the opening angle of the jet. The data collected from it could be a breakthrough in understanding more about extreme events and their effects on the surrounding space.