A Dying Star Could Trigger Massive Gamma-Ray Explosion In Our Galaxy


8,000 light-years from Earth, there’s a star system that’s not like any other astronomers have seen so far. Within that star system, there’s a ticking bomb. We’re referring at a giant star that one day could be able to produce one of the most powerful explosions in the whole universe known as the gamma-ray burst.

So far, gamma-ray bursts have been observed in other galaxies, but not in our own. Such massive explosions can come in two types: the first one features long duration and the second, short duration.

The extinction event from 450 million years ago could have been triggered by a gamma-ray burst

These are able to give off more energy in just a few seconds than our sun can give in its entire lifetime. In other words, these are so powerful that experts believe that a gamma-ray burst could be behind the extinction event that took place here on Earth about 450 million years ago.

CBS notes that the objects that are involved in this process are fascinating as well. Wolf-Rayet stars are huge; they’re 20 times bigger than our Sun. these live a few million years, and this is not a lot if we think about the fact that stars like our sun live about 10 billion years.

In a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy, an international team of researchers reveals their findings on this new object called Apep.

Apep had been seen in X-ray and radio observations for more than 20 years but had never been studied in-depth.

Back in 2012 Joe Callingham found the observations and noticed that there was clearly something unusual going on.

He found something stunning – a beautiful pinwheel.

“This is kind of a once-in-a-career image … that’s just nature right there,” Callingham said. “And it kind of captures something special, almost poetic or artistic, rather than just scientific.”

Winds of 12 million km per hour

Monday’s paper reveals that there are two massive Wolf-Rayet stars with winds that collide in the center and produce dust.

They calculate the winds are traveling at almost 12 million kilometers an hour. One of the stars is at the end of its life, and will undoubtedly die in a powerful explosion, called a supernova.

“There’s no doubt it will explode. It will go supernova, probably in 100,000 years,” Callingham said. “The question is, will it go in a gamma-ray burst? Well, at the moment, if it exploded today, yes, it would.”


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