Astronomers Peek Into Gamma-Ray Bursts -- The Most Powerful Explosions In The Universe


Rare gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are flashes of gamma rays associated with energetic explosions and only happens when enormously high-mass stars go hypernova or supernova. The large stars' powerful electromagnetic fields direct most of the energy of the explosion into two separate strong plasma jets, on both magnetic poles. Then the plasma jets scatter particles full of energy for many light-years in each direction at the speed of light.

Mauricio Bustamante, an affiliate of the Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics at Ohio State University, clarified that the latest computer model has been an outcome of recent discoveries in astroparticle physics, like the one in 2013 at the South Pole, when the initial definite cosmic neutrinos were spotted at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory.

"Previously, the details of the non-uniformity of the GRB jets were not too important in our models, and that was a totally valid assumption - up until IceCube saw the first cosmic neutrinos a couple of years ago," Bustamante explained, according to an official press release. "Now that we have seen them, we can start excluding some of our initial predictions, and we decided to go one step further and do this more complex analysis."

In the company of Walter Winter of the DESY national research center in Germany, along with Kohta Murase and Philipp Baerwald of the Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos at Penn State University, Bustamante encoded a new computer program taking into consideration the shock waves that are expected to happen within the plasma jets. They simulated the probabilities wherein beads of plasma in the jets will collide, and then computed the production of particles in each area.

Bustamante explained it better using analogy of cars, and highways where the plasma jet is a very long highway. There will be different fast moving cars on everywhere on the highway but of these cars, some are sports cars and some are faster race cars. Collisions would be inevitable and debris will be created. The debris will include cosmic and gamma rays and neutrinos depending where the collisions happened and only one will overlook the emission.

Bustamante enumerated that the debris will be neutrinos if the collision happen at the start of the highway, wherein there are more cars. It will be cosmic rays if it occurs at the middle, and further down the highway with fewer cars, we will observe from the Earth the gamma rays.

The amount of debris that astronomers observed on Earth depends on the energy and distance of the star is.

This work was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, the German Research Foundation and NASA.

Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | Flickr

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