Short Gamma-ray Bursts Tracked Farthest in the Distant Universe – Digital Journal


The Webb telescope image of the Cartwheel Galaxy, once shrouded in mystery due to dust – Copyright AFP Aamir QURESHI

Northwestern University astronomers have developed what is being described as the most extensive inventory to date of the galaxies where short gamma-ray bursts (SGRBs) originate. NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory first discovered an SGRB afterglow in 2005.

gamma ray bursts they are immensely energetic explosions that have been observed in distant galaxies. They are the most energetic and luminous electromagnetic events since the Big Bang. When two neutron stars collide, generate momentary flashes of intense gamma-ray light, known as SGRBs. While gamma rays last a few seconds, optical light can continue for hours before fading below detection levels (an event called an afterglow). Short bursts not only last less than 2 seconds, but the spectrum of light they emit is different.

The data was drawn from several highly sensitive instruments at the WM Keck Observatory, the Gemini Observatories, the MMT Observatory, the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory, and the Magellan Telescopes at Las Campanas Observatory.

The data was collected using several highly sensitive instruments in conjunction with sophisticated galaxy modelling. By implementing observations and modelling, astronomers have been able to identify the origins of 84 SGRBs. This manages to quadruple the number of existing samples.

Of the 84 SGRBs, the scientists tested the features of 69 of the identified host galaxies. This analysis of the data has revealed that 85 percent of the SGRBs in the catalog come from young, actively star-forming galaxies and 20 to 40 percent of the SGRBs occurred when the universe was much younger.

The researchers also established that several SGRBs were seen outside their host galaxies, as if they had been ‘kicked out’. This is a find that raises questions about how they were able to travel so far.

According to one of the lead researchers, Anya Nugent: “This is the largest catalog of SGRB host galaxies ever, so we expect it to be the gold standard for many years to come.”

Since SGRBs are among the brightest bursts in the universe, the team named the catalog BRIGHT (for Broadband Repository for Investigating Gamma-ray burst Host Traits). All of BRIGHT’s data and modeling products are now publicly available online for community use.

The research is expected to further astronomical understanding of these events and lead to an understanding of what happens to stars after they die.

The research has been published in The Astrophysical Journal. The studies are titledShort GRB host galaxies I” Y “Short GRB Host Galaxies II”.


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