Mysterious X-Ray Bursts Observed In Galaxy CDF-S XT1

Our Universe is full of mysterious, unexplainable events, that keep the scientists scratching their heads. Finding an answer to one of them becomes the life goal of many researchers, and with every solution, comes forth new and better understanding of our cosmos.

Recently a group of scientists observed something so mysterious, it hasn’t been observed ever before. In a report published last week, the group observed the galaxy CDF-S XT1 suddenly glowed¬†1000 times brighter than all of the stars of that galaxy for a few minutes, and then went back to a dim spot in the visible oblivion again. None of our present knowledge can explain what or why it happened.

The¬†blast of light was actually Deep Space X-rays, highly energetic electromagnetic rays, and was observed using the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. The Chandra X-ray Telescope observed the galaxy for a total of 2.5 months over a period of 17 years. The galaxy located 10.7 billion light-years away, in the part of night sky called ‘Chandra Deep Field South’, will be studied more for more understanding, and data from European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton Telescope and NASA’s Swift Satellite will be used to study the fast radio bursts. Scientists will also be using the Hubble and the Spitzer Space Telescopes to observe the galaxy and its nearby region.

“It’s like we have a jigsaw puzzle but we don’t have all of the pieces.”

-Franz Bauer from Pntifical Catholic University, Chile

The event that took place around October, 2014, has given the team sleepless nights. It has been studied for almost three years and the first report published past week still offers no certain explanation. Out of the 3 main possible events that could have caused the X-ray bursts, two of them concern Gamma Ray Bursts (GRBs) and the third one is that the X-rays released are the immense energy released when a Black Hole swallows a White Dwarf star, in the parent galaxy.

GRB observed by Chandra X-ray Telescope. Credits: NASA

Gamma Ray Bursts are the most energetic and brightest events that take place in the universe, almost 100 times brighter than a supernovae. These are weapons of cosmic destruction. It is impossible to determine the time and direction of GRBs, but if your planet is unlucky enough to be in their path, the highly energetic gamma rays will scorch it up. They were first discovered in the 1960s by American satellites, in an attempt to find any nuclear tests performed by the Soviets in outer space. Though they found no nuclear missiles out there, they did discover a new strange phenomena, blasts of streams of gamma rays spreading through the universe. These are now known to be released when a star almost the size of 1.4 solar masses collapses in on itself due to its own gravitational force, or mixing up of two neutron stars, or one neutron star and a black hole. These gamma ray bursts are followed by x-ray bursts.

The X-ray bursts, released from the direction of the galaxy CDF-S XT1, might be the result of a gamma ray burst, which was not pointed towards Earth, and so wasn’t observed, but the X-ray blast that spread in all directions was. This, though, has never happened before. There is no explanation that exactly fits the data yet. But that is what usually happens, a deeper study will reveal a better model and explanation, that exactly fits the data. What makes this X-ray blast unusual is the 1000x brightness the galaxy assumed for minutes before hiding away again forever, suddenly.

“Whatever it is, a lot more observations are needed to work out what we’re seeing.”

-Kevin Schawinski from ETH Zurich, Switzerland

The study was conducted by researchers from Pontifical Catholic University, Chile and ETH, Zurich. Let’s see what the team finds out in the future. Was this just another Gamma Ray Burst, or have stumbled upon a completely new event? Till the next time, Happy Reading.

-The Cosmogasmic Person


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