While conducting a survey for supernovas, which are the explosions that end a star’s life, scientists discovered a series of 72 mysterious cosmic flashes of light. Their brightness was similar to that of a supernova, but they evolved a lot quicker, making their nature a mystery for experts too. These flashes reportedly appeared in the Dark Energy Survey Supernova Program, which uses a very large camera on a telescope, located at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in the Chilean Andes.
The program has the aim to help reveal the nature of dark energy by making measurements of the expansion of the universe. It surveys the sky and captures images of static or changing events such as supernovas. After that, scientists analyze the results and come up with theories. According to lead author Miika Pursiainen, this survey exists only to make experts understand where dark energy comes from. However, it can also reveal certain unexpected events, like the 72 cosmic flashes that are so mysterious. Recently, the team presented their discovery at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science conference in the United Kingdom.
The mysterious 72 cosmic flashes of light
The new phenomena that the experts spotted has a maximum brightness that is similar to different types of supernovae. However, they can be seen for shorter periods of time, from a week to a month. These 72 flashes of light are very hot, from 18,000 to 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit. They are also very big, up to 9.3 billion miles in width.
When it comes to astronomers, they are still uncertain about how these episodes actually occur. There is a theory. Certain stars shed some material before exploding into supernovas. In some cases, parts of that material envelop exploding stars. The energy from the supernova then heats the surrounding material making experts see only the illuminated envelope, and not the star. However, the team needs to conduct further research to confirm that this is indeed the case.
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