Brightest Space-Blast Ever Shocks Scientists

Gamma-ray burst defies current theories
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 25, 2013 4:29 PM CST

(Newser) – Notice a little white spot in the sky earlier this year? That may have been the brightest gamma-ray explosion on record mixed with a powerful supernova, a combination scientists had never seen before, LiveScience reports. Because the blast was fairly close by—a mere 3.5 billion light-years—scientists were able to analyze it and conclude that the event was caused by a highly compact, massive star collapsing into a black hole. But a few mysteries remain.

Why, for example, were there more high-energy gamma-rays and photons than scientific models would predict? The answer could lead to better theories about particle acceleration and help us forecast cosmic events. "The really cool thing about this GRB is that ... the exploding matter was traveling at [nearly] the speed of light," says the co-author of a study into the blast. That means scientists could observe certain shock waves in the explosion called relativistic shocks—which can't be made in a lab. "These observations challenge the models and can lead us to a better understanding of physics."

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