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Scientists finally solve mystery behind brightest explosion ever seen on Earth

Scientists finally solve mystery behind brightest explosion ever seen on Earth

Scientists believe this could be a major breakthrough in our understanding of Gamma-Ray Bursts

Scientists believe they may have finally solved the mystery behind the brightest explosion ever seen.

Last October, Earth was struck by an eruption of gamma rays that has been branded the 'Brightest of All Time'.

Since then, scientists around the world have been working hard to find out how it happened and why it was so ferocious.

Officially, the blast has been named GRB 221009A, and is believed to have been caused by a massive star collapsing into a black hole.


As to the question of why it was so incredibly bright and powerful, researchers investigating the phenomenon believe it was due to the fact it was dragged along through a uniquely shaped jet expelled during the explosion.

Scientist believe the blast was caused by a star collapsing into a black hole.
Stocktrek Images, Inc./Alamy

Gamma rays are among the most powerful energetic explosions in the Universe, releasing the same amount of energy in just a few seconds as the Sun does in its entire lifetime.

Researchers at George Washington University examined wavelength data from the blast and found that GRB 221009A’s jet had a narrow core with wide sloping wings - very different from those produced during previous explosions.

And they believe that this is why we were still seeing remnants of the burst months on.

“The slow fade of the afterglow is not characteristic of a narrow jet of gas, and knowing this made us suspect there was an additional reason for the intensity of the explosion, and our mathematical models have borne this out,” said Hendrik Van Earthen from the University of Bath.

“Our work clearly shows that the GRB had a unique structure, with observations gradually revealing a narrow jet embedded within a wider gas outflow where an isolated jet would normally be expected.”

Their findings could have huge implications for our understanding of gamma-ray explosions and how they behave.

The burst in October was the brightest ever.
Corey Ford/Alamy

Alexander van der Horst, Associate Professor of physics at GW and the study's co-author, said: "For a long time, we have thought about jets as being shaped like ice cream cones.

“However, some gamma-ray bursts in recent years, and in particular the work presented here, show that we need more complex models and detailed computer simulations of gamma-ray burst jets.”

Brendan O’Connor, GW graduate student and lead study author, believes their research could very well prove to be a major breakthrough.

It also proves that the more volatile explosions follow different rules.

“GRB 221009A represents a massive step forward in our understanding of gamma-ray bursts, and demonstrates that the most extreme explosions do not obey the standard physics assumed for garden variety gamma-ray bursts," he said.

“GRB 221009A might be the equivalent Rosetta stone of long GRBs, forcing us to revise our standard theories of how relativistic outflows are formed in collapsing massive stars.”

The study has been published in the Science Advances journal - it's titled ‘A structured jet explains the extreme GRB 221009’.

Featured Image Credit: peace portal photo/Alamy/NASA/Swift/Cruz deWilde

Topics: Science, World News