International astronomers have discovered the highest known energy photons released by a severe burst in two gamma-ray bursts. Three papers, published Tuesday in the British journal Nature, describe the results of these astrophysical findings and provide a subversive explanation of the formation of such high-energy events.
Gamma-ray bursts are thought to be the highest-energy eruptions in the universe, and there is a view that such eruptions are caused by the formation of neutron stars or black holes. The eruption initially produces a bright flash, followed by a “residual” phase that releases radiation from a variety of energys, from radio waves to gamma rays of the 1 billion electron volts. Because of observational constraints, researchers have been unclear about the origin of very high-energy radiation (more than 100 billion electron volts).
The latest three studies have reported the detection of radiation released by two gamma-ray storms, GRB 190114C and GRB 180720B, with more than 100 billion electron volts of energy. Among them, grB 190114C detected in January 2019 began releasing 2-10 billion electron volts of very high-energy photons about one minute after the eruption. In two of the papers, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Physics in Germany analyzed data collected by multiple telescopes to determine the mechanism by which this radiation is generated. The team found that electrons scatter photons and increase their energy, a process also known as “reverse Compton scattering.”
In the third paper, astronomers observed photons with an energy of 1-440 billion electron volts in the afterglow of GRB 180720B’s initial radiation 10 hours later. For the GRB 180720B discovered in July 2018, scientists also attributed the findings to “reverse Compton scattering.”
In a simultaneous press and opinion piece, Zhang Bing, of the University of Nevada, said the results are important achievements, both in observational studies of gamma-ray bursts and in determining the mechanisms behind these events. He hopes to see more high-energy radiation from gamma-ray storms in the future, which he believes will bring “valuable wealth for researchers to exploit.”
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Gamma-ray storms are one of the greatest mysteries in the universe. It was discovered as early as 1967, but for decades the nature of it remained unclear, except that it was almost certain that it occurred on a cosmological scale in a stellar-scale object. Now, telescopes dedicated to detecting high-energy bursts have demonstrated the difficulty of detecting gamma-ray storms, highlighting the difficulty of this observation. But the task of capturing the source of the gamma-ray storm is still too difficult for the Earth’s humans in the universe. The time we really lift this mystery may be calculated in ten years’ time.