why some starbursts are particularly bright

Gamma-ray burst 211211A, location of which is circled in red. Photo credits: NASA, ESA, Rastinejad et al.

Last year, scientists detected a huge burst of light in space that lasted 50 seconds.

They named it GRB211211A, thinking it was formed by the collapse of a massive star.

But new research from Northwestern University tells a different story:

This bright light was created when a neutron star and a black hole collided. This discovery changes our knowledge of these bursts of light, called gamma-ray bursts (GRBs).

GRBs are like cosmic fireworks – brief but incredibly bright bursts of light that we can see from Earth.

Usually these bursts come from massive stars exploding, but this new research shows that sometimes when a neutron star and black hole collide, they too can produce a GRB.

Why is this burst of light so huge?

Researchers Ore Gottlieb and Danat Issa explained that it is all about the rotating disk of gas surrounding the black hole and its magnetic field.

Think of this disk as a vortex spinning around and being sucked in by the black hole.

If this disk is really big and its magnetic field is strong, the black hole can eject a jet of material that is super bright but only lasts for a short time.

On the other hand, if the magnetic field around that disk is weak, the beam will be less bright but last longer. The weak magnetic field keeps the jet hanging around and matches the mysterious GRB211211A in brightness and duration.

This new discovery isn’t just about solving a cosmic mystery. It also helps us understand more about black holes, their magnetic fields, and these spinning disks of gas.

To find out all this, the scientists carried out complex computer simulations. They had to simulate the time before the collision and the time after it, and then link those two simulations together. It’s like putting two pieces of a puzzle together to see the big picture.

This was a big challenge because these events happen so quickly and involve so many complicated physical processes.

Now the team wants to make their model even better by including the role of neutrinos, tiny particles that could affect the whole process.

This will help provide an even more accurate picture of what is happening during these powerful cosmic events.

In short, that Research not only helps us understand why some gamma-ray bursts are particularly bright, but also sheds light on the inner workings of some of the most mysterious objects in the universe – black holes and neutron stars.

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Source: Northwestern University.

Laura Coffey

Laura Coffey is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Laura Coffey joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: LauraCoffey@worldtimetodays.com.

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