At the onset of a supernova there can be an explosive outburst of gamma radiation before the massive star collapses into a black hole. One of the brightest gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) ever recorded has been spotted and it is in our own cosmic neighborhood, giving astronomers details that have never been seen before. Some of these details have challenged theoretical ideas of how gamma-ray bursts emit energy. Information from the gamma-ray burst have been published in five papers, all published this week.
The bright gamma-ray burst GRB 130427A was spotted on April 27, 2013 by scientists operating the Large Area Telescope (LAT) as well as the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) on the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Light from gamma rays are about 500,000 times more energetic than visible light. While the light has taken nearly 4 billion years for us to see, it has gotten here in a fraction of the time compared to other gamma-ray bursts.
Because the burst is so rare in its intensity (that we have detected so far) researchers have claimed that this is a unique time to measure photon activity at this energy level. In addition to being so bright, the energy of the GRB is also incredibly well-isolated, which definitely helps in observing and analyzing the light. It has been suggested that the spectral peak and brightness are connected, which has not been accounted for in current modeling theories.
The GRB has properties similar to redshift bursts, which is leading scientists to believe that there may be a common driving force between GRBs detected now and those that happened early in the Universe following the Big Bang.
The explosion was so severe, researchers were able to measure shock forces going forward and backward. The reverse shock is better seen by ultraviolet, visual, and near infrared spectra, while the forward shock is better visualized with x-rays. The extensive information collected from this GRB has been described as the “benchmark” which will influence all future GRB researchers.