Astronomers spotted a series of mysterious cosmic flashes while in search of dark energy, unable, thus far, to explain where they might have come from or why they occurred.
72 cosmic explosions were spotted, according to the Dark Energy Survey Supernova Program, and they represent yet another mystery astronomers must contend with while shackled in the mysteries surrounding dark energy.
Cosmic Flashes Discovered
The DES-SN uses the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in the Chilean Andes to spot possible supernovae in the universe, which are massive explosions that signal the end of a star's life. Observing these cosmic phenomena helps astronomers move one step forward in understanding dark energy, which to this day largely remains an enigma. It does this by attempting to measure the universe's expansion. While surveying the sky, it observes transient events, including possible candidates for a supernova, which scientists then study in greater detail.
"That survey then also reveals many more unexplained transients than seen before," said the University of Southampton's Miika Pursiainen. "If nothing else, our work confirms that astrophysics and cosmology are still sciences with a lot of unanswered questions."
Each second, a star typically explodes in our universe, but the 72 cosmic flashes belong to an entirely different category. As Pursiainen explains, they glowed as bright as supernovae, though lasted shorter — supernovae usually take up to several months to distinguish. Those flashes were only visible for a week or up to a month.
The cosmic flashes seem to expand and cool similar to supernovae, only they do it in much shorter periods. They're also extremely hot, with temperatures from 10,000 to 30,000 degrees Celsius.
Could They Have Been Supernovae?
Despite the time it takes for them to explode, these cosmic flashes might very well still be supernovae, especially considering that astronomers have recently discovered the brightest and fastest supernova yet, theorizing that its short death was because it exhaled a dying breath of dense gas, enshrouding it.
Supernovas that die quickly are extremely rare, but the discovery of the cosmic flashes might indicate that there are more of them in the universe waiting to be observed. However, there is still a large debate on the origin of these transients. Collecting even more data going forward is crucial. As such, the team says they plan on continuing the search for more transients, aiming to study on how often they occur compared with typical supernovae.