Solved Mystery Of Ultra-Bright Explosion Creates Bigger Puzzles: Report

Researchers now assert that the burst of light observed in 2022 originated from an exploding star at its core.

Solved Mystery Of Ultra-Bright Explosion Creates Bigger Puzzles: Report

Artist's visualisation of GRB 221009A showing the narrow relativistic jets.

Scientists have identified the source of the most powerful explosion of light ever detected, but the answer has created even bigger mysteries, according to a report by The BBC.

The 2022 event, nicknamed "BOAT" (Brightest of All Time), originated from a collapsing star, but this alone wouldn't explain its incredible brightness. Current theories suggest such supernovas also forge heavy elements like gold, but none were found in BOAT's aftermath.

Detected by telescopes in October 2022, BOAT's gamma-ray burst (intense X-rays) overwhelmed instruments and lasted a record-breaking seven minutes. This burst was 100 times brighter than anything ever recorded.

Professor Catherine Heymans of Edinburgh University and Scotland's Astronomer Royal, who is independent of the research team, told BBC News that results like these help to drive science forward.

"The universe is an amazing, wonderful, and surprising place, and I love the way that it throws these conundrums at us!

"The fact that it is not giving us the answers we want is great, because we can go back to the drawing board and think again and come up with better theories," she said.

Gamma-ray bursts are linked to supernovas, but BOAT's intensity defied explanation. Existing theories propose that such a bright burst would require an unbelievably massive exploding star.

Adding to the intrigue, BOAT initially overloaded NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Luckily, JWST later confirmed a supernova did occur, but it was far less powerful than predicted. So, what caused the extraordinary gamma-ray burst?

Dr Peter Blanchard, co-lead researcher, is determined to find out. He plans further JWST observations of similar supernova remnants to unravel this cosmic whodunit.

"It could be that these gamma ray bursts and supernova explosions are not necessarily directly linked to each other, and they could be separate processes going on," he told BBC News.

Dr Tanmoy Laskar, from the University of Utah and co-leader of the study, said that the B.O.A.T.'s power might be explained by the way in which jets of material were being sprayed out, as normally occurs during supernovas. But if these jets are narrow, they produce a more focused and brighter beam of light.

"It's like focusing a flashlight's beam into a narrow column, as opposed to a broad beam that washes across a whole wall," he said. "In fact, this was one of the narrowest jets seen for a gamma ray burst so far, which gives us a hint as to why the afterglow appeared as bright as it did.".