GRB 221009A, a gamma-ray burst detected on October 9, 2022, is one of the nearest and possibly the most-energetic gamma-ray burst ever observed. It occurred approximately 2.4 billion light-years away in the direction of the constellation Sagitta and was likely triggered by a supernova explosion giving birth to a black hole.
Gamma-ray bursts are the intrinsically brightest explosions known in the Universe.
These events last from seconds to minutes, and originate during the formation of a black hole accompanying a beamed supernova or colliding neutron stars.
The narrow beam of intense radiation can only be seen when the jet points toward Earth, but such an event can be seen across the breadth of the Universe.
GRB 221009A occurred approximately 2.4 billion light-years away in the direction of the constellation Sagitta.
It was first detected the morning of October 9, 2022, by X-ray and gamma-ray space telescopes, including NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, and the Wind spacecraft.
On October 14, 2022, astronomers used the near-infrared imaging spectrograph FLAMINGOS-2 and the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS) on the Gemini South telescope in Chile to obtain the earliest-possible observations of the afterglow of the event.
“The exceptionally long GRB 221009A is the brightest gamma-ray burst ever recorded and its afterglow is smashing all records at all wavelengths,” said Brendan O’Connor, a graduate student at the University of Maryland and George Washington University.
“Because this burst is so bright and also nearby, we think this is a once-in-a-century opportunity to address some of the most fundamental questions regarding these explosions, from the formation of black holes to tests of dark matter models.”
Astronomers think GRB 221009A represents the collapse of a star many times the mass of our Sun, which in turn launches an extremely powerful supernova and gives birth to a black hole 2.4 billion light-years from Earth.
“In our research group, we’ve been referring to this burst as the ‘BOAT,’ or Brightest Of All Time, because when you look at the thousands of bursts gamma-ray telescopes have been detecting since the 1990s, this one stands apart,” said Jillian Rastinejad, a graduate student at Northwestern University.
“This burst is much closer than typical gamma-ray bursts, which is exciting because it allows us to detect many details that otherwise would be too faint to see,” said Roberta Pillera, a doctoral student at the Polytechnic University of Bari and a member of the Fermi LAT Collaboration.
“But it’s also among the most energetic and luminous bursts ever seen regardless of distance, making it doubly exciting.”
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