NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has been quite busy being the wonderful shutterbug that it is. In a recent image, which was incidentally the deepest X-ray image ever obtained by the space observatory, scientists discovered a mysterious flash of X-rays indicating a cataclysmic event. The X-ray flash emanated from a region of the sky known as Chandra Deep Field-South (CDF-S) and became brighter by a factor of 1,000 in a matter of hours.
A mini bang 10.7 billion light years away
Using legacy images and other data obtained over decades of observation by the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, scientists have determined that the event occurred from a faint galaxy situated about 10.7 billion light years away from our earth.
While scientists are still scratching their heads to shed more light on this phenomenon, they’ve come up with a few possible explanations. So far, there have been three such explanations of which two rely on the possibility of a Gamma-ray burst (GRB) event. GRBs are violent explosions resulting from the collapse of a massive star, merger of two neutron stars or of a neutron star with a black hole. For the brightness to jump by a factor of 1,000 in a few hours, it is likely that the gamma-ray jet is pointed towards earth.
However, none of the three possible explanations makes for perfect explanations of the event. Kevin Schawinski, a researcher from ETH Zurich remarked that this could possibly be a new type of cataclysmic event altogether and that a lot more observations were needed.
The scientists are going to perform highly targeted searches through the Chandra archive along with data from the ESA’s XMM-Newton and NASA’s Swift satellite to find more examples of such an event. A paper on the same is slated to be published in the June 2017 issue of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Source: Chandra X-ray Observatory