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Supernova event proves gamma ray burst theory

Observations of a recent 'close-to-us' exploding star are important, says astrophysicist at the University of Copenhagen's Dark Cosmology Centre

This spring, scientists finally found proof that supernovae, stars that explode, can generate the most energetic gamma-ray bursts. This is according to Daniele Malesani, Swift observatory duty scientist at the Dark Cosmology Centre (DARK), part of the University of Copenhagen’s Niels Bohr Institute, which has worked in collaboration with NASA and other research centers.

“We saw the supernova very clearly. Now we believe with more certainty that other gamma-ray bursts happen due to supernovae in the more distant universe as well,” Daniele Malesani explains .

In the beginning of 2013, DARK signed an international agreement to help Danish researchers with more data. According to this, they participate in the operation of NASA’s Swift satellite and they can use the collected data in return.

High-tech satellite with a bit of luck

Supernova events are unpredictable, so the supernova-searching team has a difficult job. They do not know where to look and they can only monitor around 1/6th of the sky at given time. In order to have the best chance, they work with a satellite designed to analyze these bursts.

“The satellite is automatic. It focuses instantly to the brightness, when such things happen. It is much more reliable than a human being, since these events usually last only for less than a minute.” says Daniele.

The easiest way to find these events is from outer space, but they can be monitored by ground-based telescopes while they fade. DARK uses the Nordic Optical Telescope in La Palma (Canary Islands, Spain) to monitor the exploded star in a longer term.

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Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Relatively close to us

The observation of supernovae is not an easy task. Usually, they explode so far in the distance that astronomers can only see the brighter light from the gamma-ray burst.

“This gamma-ray burst was one of the closest, from the hundreds we have been monitoring. It happened in our cosmic neighborhood, around 3.6 billion light-years from us.” says Daniele.

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