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Time-lapse captures the fiery explosion caused by two stars colliding

Fascinating time-lapse images have captured a never-before-seen view of the fiery aftermath of a collision between two stars.

For the first time, scientists have captured millimeter-wavelength light from the fusion of at least one neutron star with another star, leaving one of the brightest afterglows ever.

The light traveled about 6 to 9 billion light-years across the universe and was picked up by the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) observatory in Chile.

Led by Northwestern University and Radboud University in the Netherlands, the team also confirmed that this flash is one of the most energetic short-lived gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) ever observed.

The data could help scientists learn more about these extreme events and the effect they have on the space around them.

Stellar event: Fascinating time-lapse images provide a never-before-seen view of the fiery aftermath caused by the collision of two stars

For the first time, scientists have captured millimeter-wavelength light from the merger of at least one neutron star with another star, leaving one of the most luminous afterglows ever.

For the first time, scientists have captured millimeter-wavelength light from the merger of at least one neutron star with another star, leaving one of the most luminous afterglows ever.

The light traveled about 6 to 9 billion light-years across the universe and was picked up by the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) observatory in Chile.  Shown is an artistic impression of the merger between a neutron star and another star

The light traveled about 6 to 9 billion light-years across the universe and was picked up by the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) observatory in Chile. Shown is an artistic impression of the merger between a neutron star and another star

Gamma-ray bursts are the most violent explosions in the universe

Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), energetic beams of gamma rays emanating from black holes, can be created in two different ways, resulting in long or short GRBs.

They arose from some of the most violent deaths in the universe.

Long GRBs last about a minute and scientists think they are produced by supernovas: when the core of a massive star collapses and becomes a black hole.

Short GRBs last a second and are produced when two neutron stars merge.

“This brief gamma-ray burst was the first time we tried to detect such an event with ALMA,” said Wen-fai Fong of Northwestern, principal investigator of the ALMA program.

“Afterglows for short bursts are very hard to come by, so seeing this event shine so bright was spectacular. ‘

Gamma ray bursts are the most powerful known explosions in the universe.

In just 10 seconds, they can radiate more energy than a star the size of our sun in 10 billion years.

Long GRBs last about a minute and scientists think they are produced by supernovas: when the core of a massive star collapses and becomes a black hole.

Short GRBs last a second and are usually produced when two neutron stars merge.

They are also important because in explosions like these elements heavier than iron are forged and ejected into space.

“These explosions take place in distant galaxies, which means that their light can be quite dim for our telescopes on Earth,” says astrophysicist Tanmoy Laskar of Radboud University in the Netherlands.

‘Before ALMA, millimeter telescopes were not sensitive enough to detect these afterglows.’

Located in the high-altitude Atacama Desert in Chile, the ALMA array includes 66 radio telescopes, making it the largest radio telescope in the world.

Laskar added: ‘Alma’s unparalleled sensitivity allowed us to more accurately determine the location of the GRB in that field, and it turned out to be in another faint galaxy, which is further away.

“That, in turn, means that this short-lived gamma-ray burst is even more powerful than we first thought, making it one of the most luminous and energetic ever.”

Gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful known explosions in the universe

Gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful known explosions in the universe

In just 10 seconds, they can radiate more energy than a star the size of our sun in 10 billion years

In just 10 seconds, they can radiate more energy than a star the size of our sun in 10 billion years

GRBs are also important because in explosions like these elements heavier than iron are forged and ejected through space

GRBs are also important because in explosions like these elements heavier than iron are forged and ejected through space

Located in the high-altitude Atacama Desert in Chile, the ALMA array includes 66 radio telescopes, making it the largest radio telescope in the world

Located in the high-altitude Atacama Desert in Chile, the ALMA array includes 66 radio telescopes, making it the largest radio telescope in the world

Fong said, “After many years of observing these eruptions, this surprising discovery opens up a new field of study as it motivates us to observe many more of these eruptions in the future with ALMA and other telescope arrays.”

Last year it was revealed that a massive gamma-ray burst more than a billion light-years from Earth is the largest explosion in the universe ever detected and recorded by astronomers.

The explosive event marked the death of a star and the beginning of its transformation into a black hole, according to experts at Germany’s Electron Synchrotron in Hamburg.

This was a massive gamma-ray burst, consisting of a combination of bright X-ray and gamma-ray bursts seen in the sky, emitted from distant extragalactic sources.

It was detected by Fermi and Swift telescopes in space, with support from the Earth-based High Energy Stereoscopic System (HESS) telescope in Namibia.

The new research has been accepted in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and is available at: arXiv.

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT GAMMA RADIATION?

Gamma radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation (EMR), similar to X-rays, that is emitted from the excited nucleus of an atom.

All EMR is in the form of a stream of photons, massless particles that each travel in a wave-like pattern and move at the speed of light.

Each photon contains a certain amount – a packet or bundle – of energy, and all EMR is made up of these photons.

Gamma ray photons have the highest energy in the EMR spectrum and their waves have the shortest wavelength.

Scientists measure the energy of photons in electron volts (ev). X-ray photons have energies in the range of 100 ev to 100,000 ev (or 100 kev). Gamma ray photons generally have an energy greater than 100 kev.

In comparison, the ultraviolet radiation that causes your skin to tan or burn has energy ranging from a few electron volts to about 100 eV.

The high energy of gamma rays means they can pass through many types of materials, including human tissue.

Very dense materials, such as lead, are often used as shielding to slow or stop gamma rays.

Gamma rays are released from many of the radioisotopes found in the natural decay series of uranium, thorium and actinium.

It is also emitted from the naturally occurring radioisotopes potassium-40 and carbon-14.

These can be found in all rocks and soil and even in our food and water.

Artificial sources of gamma rays are produced in nuclear reactor fission, high energy physics experiments, nuclear explosions and accidents.

Huge bursts of gamma rays have been observed in the Universe, most likely from black holes that form when stars explode or when two neutron stars collide.

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