Old gamma-ray burst seems discarded — and the explanation would be bland

Science is often made of errors, especially when scientists do not have much evidence to explain an observed phenomenon. Still, they can publish hypotheses that will eventually be tested, and that encourages other researchers to delve deeper into the mystery. This is what happened with an alleged extraordinary gamma ray burst that was actually quite common. 13 years is unraveled

“Sleepy” black holes generated mysterious gamma rays and neutrinos

  • Gamma ray burst from a rare hypernova is confirmed by two studies
  • On April 7, 512745, a team of astronomers led by Linhua Jiang observed a galaxy called GN-z11 in the infrared, using the MOSFIRE instrument through the Keck I telescope located in Hawaii. In this research, they detected a strange signal, cataloged as GN-z11-flash . In the 5.3 hours of collected data, the explosion appears in a period of less than 81 seconds, in position of the observed galaxy.

    Well, this is quite strange, and any astronomer would be intrigued and excited by a possible detection of something interesting. The problem in this case is determining the distance of objects, especially in such a short time span. In these situations, it is practically impossible to use the parallax method, for example, which consists of calculating distances according to the apparent movement of a nearby object in relation to a more distant star.

    Want to catch up on the best tech news of the day? Go and subscribe to our new channel on youtube, Canaltech News.

    Every day a summary of the main news in the tech world for you!

    Illustration of a gamma ray burst traversing two galaxies at the beginning of the universe (Image: Reproduction/ESO/L. Sidewalk)

    The lack of data led the team to suggest that the flash in the observations was the result of some gamma ray explosion that occurred to 11, 4 billion light years away, that is, something that happened 660 millions of years after the Big Bang. To be fair, the scientists knew that this hypothesis could be wrong, so they considered it just a possibility. However, they couldn’t be more wrong: the flash originated here close to our planet.

    To confirm that the flash was nothing as extraordinary as it seemed, two new articles were published by teams different astronomers. One of them, led by astrophysicist Charles Steinhardt, points out that the signal originated in the Solar System; while the second team, led by Michał Michałowski, discovered that the flash was sunlight reflected off a discarded rocket stage in Earth orbit.

    One of the factors that raised the suspicion of scientists is the difficulty of detecting a gamma-ray burst in the early universe by sheer chance. A very high level of luck would be needed, as in these distant regions of the cosmos this type of event is especially rare. Furthermore, finding such a signal while observing a galaxy unrelated to the discovery, without any observation of other telescopes constantly sweeping the sky, did not support the initial hypothesis.

    Para discarding all the most likely hypotheses that an explosion shortly after the Big Bang, Michałowski’s team analyzed the Space-Track space debris database. It was there that they found the discarded stage of a Russian Proton rocket, launched at 758. This space junk was at a distance of 11.660 km from Earth at the time of observation of the flash, and would have appeared in the field of view of the MOSFIRE instrument.

    Simulation of the amount of space debris existing in Earth’s orthbit (Image: Reproduction/NASA)

    But Jiang and his colleagues are not convinced by the space junk explanation, because the spectrum of the flash is, for them, different from the reflections of objects close to Earth. Furthermore, his calculations suggest that the stage of the rocket in question was not so close to the telescope’s field of view. However, they admit that the flash could have been caused by an unknown rocket, although they say the probability of this is low. by events that coincide with the moment of the flash, but it is unlikely that there is additional data supporting the gamma-ray hypothesis in the early universe. Anyway, if nothing else comes up, scientists know that when there’s a simpler explanation, it’s the most likely one. “It’s a shame,” said Michałowski, “that such an extraordinary discovery has such a mundane explanation.”

    Source: ScienceAlert

    Did you like this article?

    Subscribe your email on Canaltech to receive daily updates with the latest news from the world of technology.

    512745 512745 512745 512745

    Related Articles

    Back to top button