(ORDO NEWS) — Gamma-ray bursts are short bursts of the most powerful light in the universe.
Short-term gamma-ray bursts occur in kilon stars formed when compact objects such as neutron stars merge. In addition, long-term gamma-ray bursts are created by supernovae.
So imagine the surprise of astronomers when they discover a kilon star (a merger of two neutron stars) producing a long-lasting gamma-ray burst.
This event is known as GRB 211211A and occurs at a distance of 1.3 billion light years. Different teams of astronomers have observed the same events with two telescopes, the Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope and the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, and all have come to the same conclusion that an event lasting more than 50 seconds was created by the kilonova.
Instead of the death of a star with at least 10 times the mass of the Sun, the researchers found evidence of a neutron star merging with either another neutron star or a stellar-sized black hole.
A catastrophic collision rips a neutron star apart, releasing an incredible amount of energy in the form of a kilonova.
A long-lasting gamma-ray burst that doesn’t look like a supernova has been previously detected, but astronomers have not detected a kilonova.
This latest discovery and the relative proximity of the event allowed us to understand the process in more detail.
However, researchers are still unsure how exactly kilonovae can produce a long-lasting gamma-ray burst.
Kilons are also the site of some of the heaviest elements in the universe, such as gold and platinum, so this discovery means that long GRBs can be used to study these environments in the case of kilones.
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