Dhe brightest flash of light ever seen in space is currently captivating astronomers all over the world. As the US astrophysicist Brendan O’Connor told the AFP news agency, the flash of light released energy of 18 tera-electron volts – that’s an 18 with twelve zeros. The flash of light originated around 2.4 billion light-years from Earth – presumably during the formation of a black hole.
The flash of light was first captured by space telescopes on October 9th. It consists of gamma rays, the most intense form of electromagnetic radiation. The afterglow from the flash of light is still being observed by scientists around the world.
“Something so bright, so close, is truly a once-in-a-century event”
The flash of gamma rays lasted several hundred seconds, O’Connor said. It was probably formed when giant stars more than 30 times the size of our sun passed away. The stars therefore exploded in a supernova and then collapsed into a black hole.
A ring of matter forms around the black hole, which is absorbed and then ejected again in the form of energy. A speed of 99.99 percent of the speed of light is achieved.
The flash of light breaks all records “both in terms of the amount of photons,” i.e. light particles, “as well as the energy of the photons that reach us,” said O’Connor, who observed the phenomenon with the Gemini South telescope in Chile. “Something so bright, so close, is truly a once-in-a-century event.”
“The gamma-ray burst generally releases in a few seconds the same amount of energy that our Sun produces throughout its lifetime,” O’Connor said, explaining the magnitude of the flash. And this is also the strongest of all gamma-ray flashes ever observed.
Estimated to have formed 1.9 billion years ago, its rays have now reached astronomers’ field of view after a long journey through space. As the universe is expanding, its point of origin is now even farther from Earth.
O’Connor and his colleagues plan to continue monitoring the phenomenon, dubbed GRB221009A, over the coming weeks to see if their theory about the flash is correct. Amateur stargazers can no longer observe the phenomenon with their equipment; only the actual flash of light would have been visible to them, but not its afterglow.