A team of researchers took a closer look at what is now called GRB 160625B which is a gamma-ray explosion that happened in June 2016. Interestingly enough, these bursts are one of the most powerful explosions known in the universe but are very difficult to find and explore because of their short lives that sometimes can be as short as a few milliseconds.
Eleonora Troja, lead author of the study and an assistant research scientist in astronomy at University of Maryland said: “Gamma-ray bursts are catastrophic events, related to the explosion of massive stars 50 times the size of our sun. If you ranked all the explosions in the universe based on their power, gamma-ray bursts would be right behind the Big Bang. In a matter of seconds, the process can emit as much energy as a star the size of our sun would in its entire lifetime. We are very interested to learn how this is possible.”
The observation led to two things that are crucial in this type of research. The first one is actually knowledge on how to design a better model which can more accurately depict what is happening when a dying star is collapsing. The recent findings have suggested that the black hole actually creates a magnetic field that is extremely powerful, which overwhelms the matter and energy produced by the explosion.
The other important finding may suggest as to what type of a radiation is happening during the so-called ‘prompt’ phase, which is the bright phase that shows up at the beginning of the explosion. There were several possible theories included before this study was in progress, but it turns out that none of them were correct. The latest findings explained that it is a phenomenon named synchrotron radiation which happens when electrons are accelerating in a curved manner.
Troja commented this latest revelation: “Synchrotron radiation is the only emission mechanism that can create the same degree of polarization and the same spectrum we observed early in the burst. Our study provides convincing evidence that the prompt gamma-ray burst emission is driven by synchrotron radiation. This is an important achievement because, despite decades of investigation, the physical mechanism that drives gamma-ray bursts had not yet been unambiguously identified.”