A never-before-seen blast of energy has been detected in outer space, leaving astronomers scrambling to find an explanation.
The cosmic blast was recorded by scientists at NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, and occurred more than 130 million light-years away from Earth, in the same part of space where a collision between two neutron stars caused a massive burst of energy recorded some three-and-a-half years ago.
'There's something else happening now,' Ed Berger, a Harvard professor who was part of the team that detected the new blast, told Mashable, with the energy generated compared to a sonic boom in its intensity.
Astronomers have been working hard to try and put a reason behind this interesting new discovery, and in new research published in the journal Astronomical Letters, a team from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Northwestern University has suggested two explanations.
Incredibly, neither of the explanations has ever been observed before, meaning whatever it is is likely to be a completely new phenomenon for astronomers to study.
According to the study's lead author, PhD student Aprajita Hajela, one of the possibilities is that the burst is what's called a 'kilonova glow' - that is, the afterglow of the explosion that is caused when two neutron stars collide (known as a kilonova explosion).
This afterglow is caused by shockwaves from the explosion which heat up gases and stardust, and can be detected from millions of light years away.
According to Mashable, this 'kilonova glow' is currently the leading explanation for the burst, however scientists are also considering the possibility that it could be down to something we're more familiar with.
There's a chance that when the neutron stars collided, they caused a black hole to develop, with matter from the collision now falling into the hole.
As debris falls into the hole, it releases energy, which could be an alternative explanation for the blast.
Scientists are continuing to observe the energy blast, and efforts are ongoing to see if they can distinguish which of the two possible causes is actually responsible.
This is done by observing the type of radiation emitted by the blast - if it's primarily radio emissions, it's more likely to be a kilonova glow, whereas X-ray emissions are typically associated with black holes.
Whatever the cause, though, it's an exciting new discovery for astronomers as they seek to learn more about the mysteries of our universe.
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