A rare gamma ray explosion, which happened billions of light years away, was sighted by the astronomers at NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory in November 2018. The short gamma ray burst, also known as SGRB, is considered very rare as they are very distant thus very difficult to find as the afterglows fade very fast .
According to Wen-fai Fong, assistant professor of physics and astronomy in Northwestern University’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, they are formed when two neutron stars combine.
Very informative and interesting talk by Wen-fai Fong on what we can learn from afterglow of Short Gamma Ray Bursts #EASLeiden2020 pic.twitter.com/2Mkr4OGav4
— Dr. Manisha Shrestha (@stha_manisha) July 2, 2020
The importance of SGRBs is that we can learn about the universe’s early stages or ‘teenage years’. This particular SGRB happened 3.8 billion years after the formation of the universe and 10 billion light years away from earth. Fong also says SGRB afterglows evolve in a human timescale and this SGRB was very distant.
Why we say that we can see our 13.8 billion years old Universe’s Teenage years can be seen as this explosion happened is because the universe was only 30% it’s current age when this happened. And astronomers, using this afterglow, can identify how stars merged in the ‘Teenage ‘ Universe. Katy Paterson, postdoctoral associate in Northwestern’s CIERA, says that the astronomers are just beginning to scratch the surface of the SGRBs.
It is also important to note that this SGRB, which was one of the most visible, helps to identify the speed of star mergers when Universe was forming more and more stars in its youth. Further research is highly encouraged in this area.