A MYSTERY surrounding a strange bright glow that erupted from a violent deep space explosion has finally been solved by scientists.
The brilliant cosmic bang, which was unlike any seen before it, was the flash of a collapsing star 200million light years from Earth.
The incredible discovery means images snapped of the event, dubbed The Cow by astronomers, are the first ever captured of the moments immediately after a star’s collapse.
They could show the birth of a black hole or neutron star, both of which arise from dying stars.
Researchers said the find provides a rare peak into the often short-lived early stages of these compact cosmic objects, which are notoriously tricky to photograph.
“We think that ‘The Cow’ is the formation of an accreting black hole or neutron star,” said Dr Raffaella Margutti, a scientists at Northwestern University and author of a new study on the explosion.
The Cow glowed up to 100 times brighter than a supernova[/caption]
“We know from theory that black holes and neutron stars form when a star dies, but we’ve never seen them right after they are born. Never.”
The Cow was first spotted in June by astronomers at the Keck Observatory, which sits atop a dormant volcano in Hawaii.
Its nickname was adopted after it was listed as AT2018cow in a database, thanks to the randomised three-letter naming system.
The explosion turned the heads of scientists across the globe because it was unlike any seen before it, flashing up to 100 times brighter than a supernova, and growing at ten times the pace.
The Cow was analysed by scientists at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii[/caption]
Experts spent months trying to pin down the source of the mysterious glow, and now two groups of scientists think they have the answer.
They combined several imaging sources, including X-rays and radiowaves, captured during the explosion’s brief appearance in the sky, and suggest the Keck telescopes snapped the exact moment a star collapsed to form a compact object, such as a black hole or neutron star.
The stellar debris, approaching and swirling around the object’s event horizon, caused the remarkably bright glow.
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“This may be the first live view of a newborn compact object, such as a black hole, glowing brightly in X-rays,” said Brian Grefenstette, a scientists at California Institute of Technology and author of a second new study on the explosion.
Researchers hope the find will shed new light on the early life on black holes and neutron stars.
They have already uncovered that a shock wave is travelling outward from the explosion at one-tenth the speed of light.
“The data tell us about the early evolution of these fast-paced events, and about their impact on the environment,” said team member Anna Ho.
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