ESO's VLT captures extremely distant explosion in the early universe


Devdiscourse News Desk | Garching | Updated: 03-10-2022 14:25 IST | Created: 03-10-2022 14:25 IST
ESO's VLT captures extremely distant explosion in the early universe
Image Credit: ESO/A. Rossi et al.

The European Southern Observatory's Picture of the Week shows the afterglow of an extremely distant explosion in the early universe. Captured by the X-Shooter instrument at ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT), the light is from a gamma-ray burst (GRB), one of the most luminous and puzzling phenomena in the universe.

Gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions the Universe has seen since the Big Bang. They are brief, but intense, flashes of gamma radiation which come from all different directions of the sky. GRBs can last from a few milliseconds to a few hundred seconds.

According to ESO, in September 2021, NASA's Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory detected a bright source of gamma rays in this area of the sky. Once the initial bright flash of a GRB has died down, the afterglow shines at longer wavelengths like visible or infrared light. But they fade very quickly, so astronomers must react fast.

Astronomers, led by Andrea Rossi at INAF in Bologna, observed the aftermath of the GRB with a number of telescopes around the world, including several ESO instruments on the VLT and the robotic telescopes REM and GROND hosted at ESO's La Silla Observatory.

In addition to capturing images with VLT's X-Shooter, the team of astronomers also used this instrument to obtain spectra, which was key to discovering that the burst originates from an extremely distant galaxy - when the universe was only 6% of its current age - making this one of the most distant GBRs ever found.

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