Gamma-ray burst detected by astronomers was the nearest ever burst to Earth. It was million trillion times as bright as the Sun.
In an astonishing development, astronomers have detected the ‘most-powerful ever’ gamma-ray burst shockingly close to Earth. The burst was first detected by telescopes on October 9. According to NASA, a gamma-ray burst (GRB) is a short-lived burst of gamma-ray light, which is the most energetic form of light. Although these bursts are short-lived, they shine a million trillion times as bright as the Sun. Any closer and it would have been catastrophic.
The gamma-ray burst observed on October 9 was so powerful that scientists initially thought it came from a source not too distant from Earth, according to ScienceAlert. Astronomers initially confused it with a short burst of X-ray from a nearby source and dubbed it as Swift J1913.1+1946. According to ScienceAlert, it was only after a brief study of the data they came to know that it was actually a terrifyingly powerful explosion of gamma-rays from a source further away than they had previously assumed. It has now been renamed as GRB221009A.
Though not as close as initially expected, it is still one of the closest gamma-ray bursts detected near Earth, at a distance of just 2.4 billion light-years away. Astronomers have further revealed that it was the most-powerful gamma-ray burst ever detected, measuring up to 18 teraelectronvolts.
Astronomer Gemma Anderson of the Curtin University node of The International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Australia told ScienceAlert, “This event being so nearby but also very energetic means the radio, optical, X-ray and gamma-ray light it produces is extremely bright and therefore easy to observe. We can therefore study this GRB with lots of big and small telescopes around the world and collect very comprehensive datasets as it first brightens and then fades away.”
Can gamma-ray bursts harm the planet?
Although this was the most-powerful gamma-ray burst ever detected, it originated from a far-enough distance which made it safe for Earth. If the burst occurred nearer to Earth, it would have been catastrophic for the planet. According to NASA, such a huge gamma-ray burst near Earth would strip the Earth of its protective Ozone layer which shields the planet from the harmful UV rays of the Sun. This would mean that deadly UV rays would hit the planet and threaten life.