(ORDO NEWS) — The AT2018COW outbreak needs to step aside. A new astronomical explosion has appeared in the Universe, and it is faster, stronger and brighter on radio waves than its mysterious predecessors.
After astronomers visually spotted a bright burst in a tiny galaxy 500 million light-years from Earth in 2016, a team from Northwestern University determined that this anomaly is the third fastest blue optical transient (FBOT) ever recorded in radio and x-ray wavelengths.
A vibrantly luminous family of cosmic explosions, FBOTs have surprisingly astronomers a very fast, energetic and powerful burst of energy. As their name implies, transients disappear almost as quickly as they appear.
Perhaps the most famous FBOT is the AT2018COW (“cow”) – a rare event that turned out to be the birth of a black hole or a neutron star. But the recently identified FBOT, called CRTS-CSS161010 J045834-081803 or css161010 for short, significantly overshadowed the “cow” with the speeds and strength of its material flows.
CSS161010, in fact, produced one of the fastest flows in nature, launching gas and particles at a speed of more than 55% of the speed of light. Its breathtakingly fast outflows are also the heaviest documented for their class.
“It was unexpected,” said Dean Coppejans of Northwestern, the first author of the study. “We know about energy explosions that can throw out material at almost the speed of light, in particular gamma-ray bursts, but they only launch a small amount of mass – about 1 millionth of the mass of the Sun. CSS161010 sent from 1 to 10 percent of the mass of the sun at a speed of more than half the speed of light – an indication that this is a new class of explosive processes.”
“We thought we knew what caused the fastest outflows in nature,” said Raffaella Margutti of Northwestern, senior author of the study. We thought that there are only two ways to obtain them – the collapse of a massive star with a gamma-ray burst or the fusion of two neutron stars. We thought so. Using this study, we introduce a third way to trigger these emissions. There is a new beast there, and it is capable of producing the same energy phenomenon.”
The study was published today (May 26) in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
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