ORIGINS OF CASTAWAY SHORT GAMMA-RAY BURSTS

ORIGINS OF CASTAWAY SHORT GAMMA-RAY BURSTS
They last just 2 seconds or less. But they’re insanely powerful explosions. Where certain short gamma-ray bursts came from has been a mystery, until now. Two Maunakea Observatories – W. M. Keck Observatory and Gemini Observatory – took part in an international investigation into the true origins of these intensely bright flashes of light. It turns out they came from ultra-distant galaxies up to 10 billion light-years away! This is explains why their home galaxies were previously difficult to detect.
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Previously unrecognized home galaxy of short gamma-ray burst GRB 151229A.
HEAVIEST ‘BLACK WIDOW’ NEUTRON STAR OBSERVED
It’s a record-breaker! UC Berkeley and Stanford University astronomers using Keck Observatory have discovered the heaviest ‘black widow’ neutron star known to date, weighing in at more than twice the mass of the Sun. It’s also one of the fastest spinning neutron stars in our Milky Way galaxy, turning at a dizzying 707 times per second! These type of stars are named after the black widow spider, which sometimes devours its mate.
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What’s left of a star (green circle) eaten by its mate – a ‘black widow’ neutron star.
TRACING THE GAS THAT BREATHES LIFE INTO GALAXIES
How do you observe gas in the dark depths of deep space when it’s practically invisible? A team of astronomers led by our very own W. M. Keck Observatory Chief Scientist John O’Meara and Rongmon Bordoloi of NC State University has developed a technique revealing the ghostly gas that breathes life into galaxies. With this new method, which uses a lensed galaxy as a “backlight,” they mapped a pair of ancient, colossal gas clouds known as Damped Lyman-α systems (DLAs) that formed just after the Big Bang and are each nearly the size of the Milky Way! This discovery sheds new light on how DLAs power star formation in the young universe.
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Artist’s rendering showing how a galaxy cluster acts as a gravitational lens.
JWST’S FIRST SCIENCE IMAGES
ICYMI (In Case You Missed It): The very first science images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope are now in, making their worldwide debut on July 12 in glorious detail. There are five total: the Carina Nebula, an infrared view of the Southern Ring planetary nebula, Stephan’s Quintet galaxy group, the spectrum of exoplanet WASP-96 b, and Webb’s First Deep Field image of the SMACS 0723 galaxy cluster. Just WOW!
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Image Credits

  • GRB 151229A: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA
  • Eaten star: W. M. Keck Observatory/R. W. Romani/ A. Filippenko
  • Lensing galaxy cluster: W. M. Keck Observatory/Adam Makarenko
  • JWST’s First Images: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

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