Queen’s University, Belfast, astronomers detect a remarkable cosmic event
In a stunning discovery that has left scientists astounded, researchers at Queen’s University, Belfast, have identified an extraordinary cosmic explosion, surpassing the brilliance of most supernovae in the universe. This celestial phenomenon, aptly named AT2022aedm, stands out not only for its unparalleled radiance but also its remarkably brief duration, shining for less than half the time of a typical supernova.
A Bright and Brief Blaze
Using the Atlas network of robotic telescopes situated in Hawaii, Chile, and South Africa, the astronomers swiftly pinpointed this celestial spectacle. These telescopes systematically survey the entire visible sky each night, tirelessly searching for objects that exhibit motion or variations in luminosity.
A Cosmic Enigma Unveiled
Further investigation conducted with the New Technology Telescope in Chile revealed that AT2022aedm defied categorization as a conventional supernova. The subsequent analysis, incorporating data from observatories across the globe, unveiled an unprecedented behavior – the explosion faded and cooled down far more rapidly than anticipated.
Dr. Matt Nicholl, hailing from Queen’s School of Mathematics and Physics, emphasized the extraordinary nature of this discovery, stating, “This is one of the brightest cosmic explosions we have ever seen in our more than 10 years of searching for the universe’s most powerful cosmic explosions. A highly luminous supernova would typically lose around half of its peak brightness in a month. At the same time, AT2022aedm virtually disappeared, losing less than 1% of its peak brightness.”
Adding to the intrigue, the location of the explosion surprised the researchers. Dr. Shubham Srivastav, also affiliated with Queen’s, remarked, “Our data indicated that this event unfolded in a massive, red galaxy situated two billion light-years away. These galaxies are known to harbor billions of stars akin to our sun, but they should not yield stars substantial enough to culminate as supernovae.”
A New Cosmic Class Emerges
Intriguingly, the team unearthed just two other cosmic incidents exhibiting analogous characteristics, previously identified by the ROTSE and ZTF surveys in 2009 and 2020. The extensive dataset amassed for AT2022aedm indicates that these events constitute an entirely novel category of cosmic phenomena.
Dr. Nicholl expounded, “We have christened this emerging class of celestial sources as ‘Luminous Fast Coolers,’ or LFCs, denoting their extraordinary brilliance and rapid fading. Additionally, this moniker carries a nod to our fondness for Liverpool Football Club, a coincidence given that LFCs appear to favor red galaxies.”
A Cosmic Collision?
Dr. Nicholl suggested that this groundbreaking discovery opens new avenues for further research. He stated, “The meticulous dataset we’ve assembled categorically rules out AT2022aedm as another run-of-the-mill supernova. The most plausible explanation seems to involve a black hole colliding with a star. The hunt for additional LFCs, especially in closer reaches of the Universe, may enable us to put this scenario to the test. Collisions are more likely to occur in densely populated star clusters, so we will scrutinize these sites in the aftermath of such celestial explosions.”
The research paper detailing this exceptional discovery has been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.