In June 2023, astronomers discovered something intriguing about gamma ray bursts’ creation, something that may suggest there’s a way of destroying stars we didn’t know about before.
NOIRLab‘s International Gemini Observatory reports that a gamma-ray burst it had been studying originated in very unique circumstances: A supermassive black hole. That’s a black hole of tremendous size and extraordinary gravitational influence. This one from another galaxy created a busy environment marked by a “collision of stars or stellar remnants.” It’s believed that all of these chaotic collisions gave rise to a gamma-ray burst. Not a super-short-lived one, either.
This gamma ray burst, designated GRB 191019A according to Northwestern University, isn’t believed to have originated in any of the previously-understood ways (the slow and natural demise of a huge star for instance). Such collisions, then, appear to be another way of annihilating stars. It’s a new discovery with intriguing implications. This, as Radboud University astronomer Andrew Levan puts it, “is exciting for understanding how stars die and for answering other questions, such as what unexpected sources might create gravitational waves that we could detect on Earth.”
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