New beast: Astronomers detect another rare blue optical transient in the universe, 500 million-light-years-away

This explosion has taken scientists by surprise because of its speed and heaviness of the material outflows.


It was in 2016 that scientists had observed a bright burst in a small galaxy 500 million light-years away from the Earth. They found out that that blue light was known to have been a result of a fast blue optical transient (FBOT) that was described as a new form of an explosion in the universe.

Now, four years later, another such FBOT has been detected by means of X-rays and radio waves. The recent one called CSS161010, short for CRTS-CSS161010 J045834-081803, has taken scientists by surprise because of its speed and heaviness of the material outflows.

 New beast: Astronomers detect another rare blue optical transient in the universe, 500 million-light-years-away

An artistic illustration of a fast blue optical transient as compared to a supernova and a gamma-ray burst. Image credit: Bill Saxton NRAO/AUI/NSF

The FBOT has spat out material weighing about one to 10 percent of the mass of our Sun and has established that it belongs to a new class of “rare H-rich transients” which can launch “mildly relativistic outflows”. It has launched out gas and other particles at over 55 times the speed of light.

Scientists have found it difficult to detect or study FBOTs because of their virtue of being fast, fading as quickly as they had appeared. The most famous of this kind is perhaps the COW or AT2018COW, seen on 16 June 2018. The sudden explosion of light which was at least 10 times brighter than any supernova (the powerful explosion that marks the death of a massive star) had baffled scientists. They thought that it was most likely the birth of a black hole or a neutron star.

Apart from collapse of a “massive star with a gamma-ray burst or two neutron stars merging,” the FBOT has shown a third way of producing outflows in nature, pointed out Raffaella Margutti, senior study author, assistant professor of physics and astronomy in Northwestern University's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

There is a new beast out there, and it's able to produce the same energetic phenomenon,” the professor added.

Although these vanished before scientists could find out what caused the explosion, the experts are sure about the presence of a black hole or neutron star inside.


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