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HomeSCIENCEScientists have observed the flattest explosion ever seen in space -Se

Scientists have observed the flattest explosion ever seen in space -Se

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Slim Boom. Credit: Phil Drury, University of Sheffield

An explosion the size of our solar system has surprised scientists, as part of its shape – resembling an extremely flat disk – challenges everything we know about explosions in space.

The observed explosion was a bright fast blue optical transient (FBOT)—an extremely rare class of explosion that is much less common than other explosions, such as supernovae. The first bright FBOT was discovered in 2018 and nicknamed “cow.”

Starbursts in the universe are almost always spherical, because the stars themselves are spherical. However, the burst, which occurred 180 million light-years away, is the most aspherical seen in space, emerging in a disk-like shape days after its discovery. This part of the explosion comes from material created by the star just before the explosion.

It is not yet clear how bright FBOT bursts occur, but hopefully this observation is revealed Monthly Bulletin of the Royal Astronomical Societywill bring us closer to understanding them.

Dr Justin Maund, lead author of the study from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Sheffield, said: “FBOT explosions are known very little—not only do they behave like exploding stars, they are very bright and they evolve very quickly. Simply put, they are strange, And this new observation makes them even weirder.”

“Hopefully this new discovery will help us shed a little more light on them—we never thought the explosions could be so aspherical. There are a few possible explanations for this: The stars involved may have formed a disk just before they died, or they may have been failed supernovae. Maybe, where the core of the star collapses into a black hole or neutron star that then eats up the rest of the star.”

“What we now know for sure is that the recorded anomaly levels are a key part of understanding these mysterious explosions and that they challenge our preconceived notions of how they could have exploded in the universe.”

Scientists made the discovery after spotting a flash of fully polarized light by chance. They were able to measure the polarization of the burst using the astronomical equivalent of Polaroid sunglasses with the Liverpool Telescope (owned by Liverpool John Moores University) located in La Palma.

By measuring the polarization, this allowed them to measure the shape of the explosion, effectively looking at something the size of our solar system but in a galaxy 180 million light-years away. They were then able to use the data to reconstruct the 3D shape of the explosion and map the edges of the explosion — they could see how flat it was.

The Liverpool Telescope’s mirror is only 2.0 meters in diameter, but by studying the polarization astronomers were able to reconstruct the size of the burst as if the diameter of the telescope were about 750 km.

The researchers will now conduct a new survey with the International Vera Rubin Observatory in Chile, which is expected to help discover and understand more FBOTs.

More information:
Justin R. Mound et al., Polarized optical light flash points to an aspherical ‘cow’, Monthly Bulletin of the Royal Astronomical Society (2023). DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stad539

Journal Information:
Monthly Bulletin of the Royal Astronomical Society



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