Astronomers have worked out the origin of ‘long gamma ray bursts’, the most powerful electomagnetic phenomena in the universe.
The bursts release as much energy in a second or so as the Sun will release over its entire lifetime.
Scientists used simulations to work out that the photons emitted by the bursts come from the visible surface of high-speed jets, emitted as massive stars tear themselves apart.
Researchers used supercomputers to simulate how the gamma rays were released – and if it made sense that they came from the surface of jets released from the dying star.
It’s known as ‘photospheric’ emission, where the rays come from the surface of the jets as they expand.
Lead author Hirotaka Ito of the RIKEN Cluster for Pioneering Research said, ‘To us this strongly suggests that photospheric emission is the emission mechanism of gamma-ray bursts.
‘There are still mysteries concerning how the relativistic jets themselves are generated by the collapsing stars.
‘Our calculations should provide valuable insights for looking into the fundamental mechanism behind the generation of these tremendously powerful events.’