Written by Prarthana Sheopuri. Managing Editor, I Kid You Not.
On 10 October, space-based detectors picked up a powerful gamma-ray burst passing through the Milky Way. Astronomers called this a B.O.A.T – or Brightest Of All Time!
What are gamma rays?
Gamma rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation – think of them like light, which is a form of energy that travels in waves. Gamma rays have the most energy of any wave in the electromagnetic spectrum.
These rays (a form of energy) are produced by the explosion of the hottest objects in the universe – like supernova explosions (to name one). On Earth, gamma waves are generated by nuclear explosions, lightning, etc.
So, what do gamma-ray bursts mean?
Gamma-ray bursts are extremely high-energy explosions in distant galaxies, they typically last between milliseconds to several hours. The first sighting of gamma-ray bursts was observed in the late 1960s.
The latest gamma-ray burst falls into the long category as it was unusually long-lasting: the burst was monitored for 10 hours. Astronomers have dubbed it GRB 221009A. The gamma-ray burst is the most powerful yet recorded and likely could be the birth of a new black hole.
In the group researching the phenomenon, the burst is referred to as the ‘BOAT,’ or Brightest Of All Time, as it stands apart, compared to the thousands of bursts gamma-ray telescopes have been detecting since the 1990s. This also counts among the most energetic and luminous bursts ever seen.
Threat to our planet
Like all the gamma-ray bursts observed to date, GRB 221009A too occurred in a galaxy far away from our own galaxy -Milky Way, and thus had no ill effects on Earth.
A powerful gamma-ray burst within 5,000 to 8,000 light-years from Earth, with an emission, pointed toward us, could be quite dangerous if it occurred in the Milky Way.
There would be a short-term increase in ground levels of ultraviolet radiation, causing a sharp rise in DNA damage to living systems. It could also deplete the ozone layer and trigger dangerous chemical reactions in Earth’s atmosphere, also causing acid rain.
Better Your Child’s G.K. In 3 Minutes – Get This Free Newsletter
Get fun facts, simple and easy news, quizzes, and lots of other interesting things to read in your mailbox – for free! It’s what we call GK-on-the-go!