Scientists using NASA’s Swift satellite have detected a new kind of cosmic explosion. The event appears to be a precursor to a supernova, which is expected to reach peak brightness in about a week’s time. UK astronomers and their colleagues around the world are watching closely as they have never seen an explosion of this kind before.
Satellites and the world’s largest telescopes are now trained on the sight, watching and waiting. The explosion has the trappings of a gamma-ray burst (GRB), the most distant and powerful type of explosion known. Yet this explosion, detected on February 18 2006, was very much closer and 100 times longer than the typical gamma-ray burst. And it possesses characteristics never seen before.
Dr Julian Osborne, lead investigator for Swift at the University of Leicester said "The bright X-ray source seen when Swift slewed to the burst varied rather slowly for about 40 minutes, quite different to the very rapid decline of more normal GRBs. It did later decline much more rapidly, like a normal GRB, so the challenge will be to find a physical description of the explosion expanding into the host galaxy gas which matches this new pattern"
Julia Maddock | alfa
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