Scientists Witness The Most Powerful Gamma Ray Burst In History

Friday, 22 November 2013 - 12:26PM

A massive gamma ray burst witnessed by scientists around the globe is thought to be the biggest explosion ever recorded. Occurring approximately 3.7bn light years away, the burst was detected by a host of long range telescopes back in April. Now, after studying the data, scientists believe the power of this explosion is topped only by that of The Big Bang.


Gamma ray bursts occur when massive stars run out of fuel and collapse into a newly formed black hole, which in turn results in a high-powered supernova. The resulting explosion from a star's death forces a highly charged ejection of bright radiation that shoots across space at alarming speeds. Such explosions are not uncommon. Supernovas have been picked up by telescopes regularly over the last couple of decades or so, but the sheer size, power and relatively close proximity to Earth of this event is unprecedented.


The star in question is estimated to have been between 20 and 30 times more massive than our sun, yet only 3 times its size, meaning it was a star of incredible density. It is this density that gave the star's final moments such an immense kick. However, the explosion was not just powerful, it was also a great deal longer than any gamma ray burst witnessed before. In general, a gamma ray burst has an afterglow that is visible for anything between a few days and a few weeks. The afterglow of this burst has, however, been witnessed for several months!


Scientists admit that while this is an incredibly powerful blast, such events may not be uncommon across the universe and that the event's close proximity to Earth is the most unprecedented thing about it. You see, 3.7bn light years may sound like a long way, but when you're talking about the observable universe as a whole, it's not that far at all. Indeed, most gamma ray bursts are normally found over twice this distance from our planet, which limits the amount of data that can be collected. But this event represents a fantastic data collection opportunity and could subsequently rip up the rule book when it comes to gamma ray bursts. But if you're nervous that this is a sign the Earth will soon become vaporized by a similar, but much closer event, don't be. Scientists believe that the chances of such a gamma ray burst occurring within our galaxy is about 1 in 10 million.