NASA, the American space agency, reported on October 9 an abnormally brilliant and long-lasting pulse of high energy radiation that went across the Earth. According to the report, the radiation was caused by a gamma-ray burst (GRB), one of the most intense and bright electromagnetic explosions. NASA stated on its website that the GRB was spotted by the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, and the Wind satellite. The event was dubbed GRB 221009A by the space agency, and it marked the start of the Fermi Symposium in Johannesburg, South Africa.
“It’s safe to say this meeting certainly got off with a bang – everyone’s talking about it,” Judy Racusin, a Fermi deputy project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, was quoted on the agency’s website as saying. Mr Racusin will also be present at the conference.
According to NASA, the signal originated in the direction of the constellation Sagitta and travelled an estimated 1.9 billion years to reach Earth.
Astronomers believe it is the birth scream of a new black hole, born in the centre of a huge star collapsing under its own weight. In these conditions, a fledgling black hole generates tremendous jets of particles travelling at near-light speed.
Another GRB this bright may not appear for decades, according to the space agency.
“This burst is much closer than typical GRBs, which is exciting because it allows us to detect many details that would otherwise be too faint to see,” said Roberta Pillera, a Fermi LAT Collaboration member and doctoral student at the Polytechnic University of Bari in Italy, who led initial communications about the burst. “But, independent of distance, it’s also one of the most intense and bright flashes ever seen, making it doubly fascinating.”
According to preliminary NASA analysis, the burst was spotted by Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT) for more than 10 hours.