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A group of scientists led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have uncovered the mystery of the origin of the bright blue flash, which was observed in 2018 in a galaxy located 200 million light years away. This light signal, designated AT2018cow or "Cow", had properties uncharacteristic of a supernova, as the flash was faster and brighter. The results of the study, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, suggest that the source of the radiation was still a dying star.


Scientists found that in addition to the AT2018cow outburst, it emits pulses of high-energy X-rays at a frequency of 225 hertz, which occur every 4.4 milliseconds for 60 days. Based on the frequency of the impulses, scientists have associated them with an object with a diameter of no more than a thousand kilometers and a mass of less than 800 times the mass of the Sun. This corresponds to either a black hole or a neutron star.

Thus, in the Universe, AT2018cow was a side effect of the transformation of a star into a black hole or neutron star. The newly formed object continued to absorb the surrounding material left over from the original star, releasing an enormous amount of energy in a powerful explosion, one hundred times brighter than a typical supernova.

AT2018cow refers to FBOT (fast blue optical transient) - blue optical transient processes, and scientists are aware of only three such phenomena. In fact, it is a super-powerful explosion, visible in optical, X-ray and radio beams. It was believed that none of the astrophysical processes known at that time could give rise to such a fast flash, the growth rate of which was estimated at 42 thousand kilometers per second.

Things to know (Q&A)

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What is the most powerful thing in the universe?

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