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Astronomers Spot 72 Weird Cosmic Flashes

April 6, 2018
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Astronomers Spot 72 Weird Cosmic Flashes

Astronomers from the University of Southampton, UK, have found 72 unusual cosmic flashes. The event has stunned astronomers.

So, astronomers were conducting a survey for supernovas – the dramatic explosion that happens after a massive star dies. During the study, they witnessed 72 powerful flashes of light.

Researchers spotted transients in data from the Dark Energy Survey Supernova Program (DES-SN). The flashes currently remain a mystery, according to findings presented at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science.

“The DES-SN survey is there to help us understand dark energy, itself entirely unexplained,” Miika Pursiainen, of the University of Southampton, said in a statement. “That survey then also reveals many more unexplained transients than seen before.

According to Pursiainen, they were as bright as supernovae but lasted significantly shorter periods of time—a week to a month. Supernovae on the other hand typically take several months to distinguish.

The Event

The events appear to be both hot, with temperatures from 18,000 to 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit (10,000-30,000 degrees Celsius), and large, ranging in size from several up to a hundred times the distance from Earth to Sun. They also seem to be expanding and cooling as they evolve in time, as would be expected from an exploding event such as a supernova.

So, currently, no one knows for sure what caused these fleeting blasts. However, scientists have a theory. They suggest that a star in its dying days sheds heaps of material, which surrounds the celestial body. Thus, becomes cooked by the supernova. This scenario may explain the newly observed 72 events, but confirming that requires further research, the study team members said.

To confirm any of this, the researchers will need a lot more data.

“We plan to continue our search for transients, and estimate how often they take place compared with more ‘routine’ supernovae,” Pursiainen said.

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Thumbnail image: Images of one of the transient events—from eight days before maximum brightness to 18 days afterward. Credit: Miika Pursiainen/University of Southampton.

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