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Remarkable space blast identified as black hole collision

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A “remarkable” astronomical explosion is thought to have been triggered by the collision of stars with a black hole, scientists have said.

The event, a gamma-ray burst, was detected by a space telescope and a NASA observatory.

A team of scientists including University of Leicester physicists described the minute-long blast as a rare cosmic event.

They said they hoped their research would help the study of future events.

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

This particular explosion, from a nearby galaxy, was detected in December 2021.

‘Factories of gold’

Scientists said the blast, named GRB 211211A, was relatively lengthy with more infrared light than they would normally expect to see.

Their research suggests the light came from a kilonova, an astral event, thought to be generated as neutron stars and a black hole collide.

The research team was led by Jillian Rastinejad at Northwestern University in the US.

It included experts from the universities of Birmingham and Leicester as well as Radboud University in the Netherlands.

The researchers said they believed the explosion had produced elements such as gold and platinum.

Dr Matt Nicholl, an associate professor at the University of Birmingham, said the research supported the idea that such kilonovae “are the main factories of gold in the universe”.

Dr Gavin Lamb, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Leicester, said the burst had seen an excess of infrared light from about a day after the burst.

Dr Benjamin Gompertz, an assistant professor at the University of Birmingham, added the research had exciting implications for future research.

He said: “This was a remarkable [gamma-ray burst].

“We don’t expect mergers to last more than about two seconds. Somehow, this one powered a jet for almost a full minute.”


REFERENCE

Link: Ground-breaking view of the cosmos revealed at Space Park Leicester | News | University of Leicester

University of Leicester

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