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Copenhagen scientists witness cosmic explosion

University of Copenhagen astrophysicists have helped discover and witness a rare cosmic event: Bursts of gamma rays in connection with an exploding giant star. Astronomically speaking, this is close to us, at 890 million light years away

Gamma ray bursts, which are powerful bursts of radiation in the universe, have just been observed in direct connection with an exploding giant star – a supernova. University of Copenhagen researchers were among those who studied the rare event, according to the Dark Cosmology Centre.

»That we observed a gamma ray burst and a supernova simultaneously is unusual and it gives us a long awaited confirmation of the theory that gamma ray bursts are indeed associated with exploding giant stars«, explains Johan Fynbo, a University of Copenhagen astrophysicist.

An international team of researchers made the discovery using NASA’s Swift satellite, and then subsequently observed it from the European Very Large Telescopes, VLT in Chile.

Can follow the entire explosion now

By analysing light spectra and measuring the so-called redshift the researchers could calculate the distance to the supernova, which is in a galaxy 820 million light years from Earth. Astronomically speaking, this is a relatively near galaxy.

»Only about one out of 10,000 supernovae produce gamma ray bursts. So gamma ray bursts are rare and gamma ray bursts in the relatively near universe are even more rare, so it gives us a unique opportunity to study the phenomena in detail,« explains Johan Fynbo.

»When you have one that is so near, it is like a clock telling you that the star is dying just now, and you can follow the early phases and the entire development of the supernova explosion that follows«.

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