Scientists finally have an explanation for the bright light from the depths of space

Scientists say they finally have an explanation for the mysterious bright blue light coming from the depths of space. Three years ago, astronomers were astonished to see a brilliant blue flash emerge from the spiral arms of a distant galaxy, some 200 million light-years away. The initial discovery of the event known as AT2018cow occurred in June 2018, when viewed from a survey in Hawaii, which quickly sent a global alert to other telescopes looking for it. They saw a bright flash 100 times brighter than an ordinary supernova, the brightest explosion humans have ever seen. It looked like a supernova, but much brighter and faster than the already intense event. Scientists have struggled to explain it, and it's known as a fast blue light transient, or FBOT, with no explanation as to how it happened. Further details about the event seem to confuse him even more. Scientists have discovered that it consists not only of bright flashes of light, but also of strong, pulsating X-rays, hundreds of millions of these pulses being traced back to the same object. These pulses occur regularly, every 4.4 milliseconds, over a period of time. 60 days. Scientists used these pulses to calculate that the X-ray source should be no more than 1,000 kilometers wide, and have a mass of less than 800 suns. This seems to indicate that it is something compact, like a tiny black hole or neutron star. As such, it appears that mysterious flashes might occur when a star is dying – when it collapses, producing a tiny black hole or neutron star. This results in it eating the material that surrounds it, swallowing stars, and releasing intense bursts of energy as it travels. This is the conclusion presented in a new paper entitled "Evidence of a Compact Object in Constructed from the Highly Transient Galaxy AT2018cow," published in natural astronomy.

"We might detect the birth of a compact object in a supernova," said lead author Dheeraj "DJ" Basham, a research scientist at MIT. "This happens in a normal supernova, but we've never seen it before because the process is chaotic. We think this new evidence opens up the possibility of finding miniature black holes or miniature neutron stars."

Previous attempts to explain the flash have suggested it could be a black hole born in a supernova, or a star tearing matter from another passing star. But astronomers have never been able to satisfactorily explain flashes of light using only optical data β€” leading the researchers behind the new paper to also look at X-ray energy.

This leads them to check for regular pulses, which can be used to learn more about the thing that sent them. They say it rules out the existence of an intermediate black hole and leads scientists to the current explanation. The scientists say the same technique could be used to help better understand other fast blue optical transients in the same family.

"When there's a new phenomenon, there's excitement about being able to tell something new about the universe," Basham said. β€œFor FBOT, we have shown that we can study their pulse in detail, in a way that is not possible in the visual field. Therefore, this is a new way to understand this newborn compact body.”


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