Last year, a remarkable event took place in the cosmos, capturing the attention of astronomers and scientists worldwide. Referred to as GRB221009A, this gamma ray burst (GRB) dazzled with its extraordinary luminosity, surpassing any other GRB ever observed. In fact, it was at least 10 times brighter and 70 times longer than any previously recorded GRB.
GRB221009A was detected by a constellation of satellites and ground telescopes, including NASA’s THEMIS probes and Swift Observatory, as well as ESA/NASA’s Solar Orbiter. The data collected from these instruments provided invaluable insights into the celestial phenomenon.
One particular researcher, Laura Hayes from the European Space Agency (ESA), delved deeper into the event’s impact on Earth’s atmosphere. Analyzing data from a ground-based receiver called SuperSID in Ireland, which monitors very low frequency (VLF) radio signals, Hayes uncovered some fascinating findings. It appeared that the disturbance caused by GRB221009A had affected Earth’s lower ionosphere, similar to the impact of a solar flare.
Further research conducted by Italian scientists and published in Nature Communications shed light on the significant effects of this distant blast on Earth’s atmosphere. The study revealed that areas over India’s west coast experienced an astonishing gamma-ray illumination, and regions across Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia were illuminated as well. Such widespread lighting phenomena emphasized the immense power of GRB221009A.
The Chinese research team at the Large High Altitude Air Shower Observatory (LHAASO) successfully quantified the explosion’s immense energy. Within just half an hour, they detected approximately 5,000 high-energy gamma rays using the Kilometer Squared Array (KM2A). Astonishingly, these gamma rays had energies reaching up to 13 TeV, which is almost as energetic as when they were initially released.
The increasing occurrence of high-energy events in space, such as the 20-TeV gamma rays from a pulsar and the extraordinary brightness of an explosion named ‘Tasmanian devil,’ has raised significant questions about their origins and potential impacts.
GRB221009A’s staggering power and rarity have raised concerns among the scientific community regarding the potential catastrophic effects if a similar event were to take place within our own Milky Way galaxy. This highlights the urgent need for further research and understanding in this field.
Meanwhile, scientists are looking to the depths of our universe for potential safe havens from such radiative assaults. The possibility of life existing in the oceans beneath the surfaces of planets and moons like Enceladus, Europa, or Pluto offers a glimmer of hope amidst these cosmic uncertainties.
The ultimate task at hand for scientists is to fully explain the events that led to such an intense explosion and understand the increasingly chaotic nature of the Universe. With each new discovery, we come closer to unraveling the mysteries that lie hidden within the vast expanse of space.