Exoplanet-hunter TESS telescope spots brilliant gamma-ray burst — ScienceDaily

by akoloy

NASA has a protracted custom of sudden discoveries, and the house program’s TESS mission is not any totally different. SMU astrophysicist and her crew have found a very brilliant gamma-ray burst utilizing a NASA telescope designed to seek out exoplanets — these occurring outdoors our photo voltaic system — notably those who may be capable to help life.

It’s the primary time a gamma-ray burst has been discovered this manner.

Gamma-ray bursts are the brightest explosions within the universe, usually related to the collapse of a large star and the beginning of a black gap. They can produce as a lot radioactive vitality because the solar will launch throughout its complete 10-billion-year existence.

Krista Lynne Smith, an assistant professor of physics at Southern Methodist University, and her crew confirmed the blast — referred to as GRB 191016A — occurred on Oct. 16 and in addition decided its location and length. A research on the invention has been printed in The Astrophysical Journal.

“Our findings prove this TESS telescope is useful not just for finding new planets, but also for high-energy astrophysics,” mentioned Smith, who makes a speciality of utilizing satellites like TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) to check supermassive black holes and fuel that surrounds them. Such research make clear the conduct of matter within the deeply warped spacetime round black holes and the processes by which black holes emit highly effective jets into their host galaxies.

Smith calculated that GRB 191016A had a peak magnitude of 15.1, which suggests it was 10,000 occasions fainter than the faintest stars we will see with the bare eyes.

That could sound fairly dim, however the faintness has to do with how distant the burst occurred. It is estimated that gentle from GRB 191016A’s galaxy had been travelling 11.7 billion years earlier than turning into seen within the TESS telescope.

Most gamma ray bursts are dimmer — nearer to 160,000 occasions fainter than the faintest stars.

The burst reached its peak brightness someday between 1,000 and a pair of,600 seconds, then light progressively till it fell beneath the power of TESS to detect it some 7000 seconds after it first went off.

This gamma-ray burst was first detected by a NASA’s satellite tv for pc referred to as Swift-BAT, which was constructed to seek out these bursts. But as a result of GRB 191016A occurred too near the moon, the Swift-BAT could not do the required follow-up it usually must be taught extra about it till hours later.

NASA’s TESS occurred to be that very same a part of the sky. That was sheer luck, as TESS turns its consideration to a brand new strip of the sky each month.

While exoplanet researchers at a ground-base for TESS may inform instantly {that a} gamma-ray burst had occurred, it could be months earlier than they acquired any knowledge from the TESS satellite tv for pc on it. But since their focus was on new planets, these researchers requested if another scientists at a TESS convention in Sydney, Australia have been all for doing extra digging on the blast.

Smith was one of many few high-energy astrophysics specialists there at the moment and shortly volunteered.

“The TESS satellite has a lot of potential for high-energy applications, and this was too good an example to pass up,” she mentioned. High-energy astrophysics research the conduct of matter and vitality in excessive environments, together with the areas round black holes, highly effective relativistic jets, and explosions like gamma-ray bursts.

TESS is an optical telescope that collects gentle curves on every thing in its discipline of view, each half hour. Light curves are a graph of sunshine depth of a celestial object or area as a perform of time. Smith analyzed three of those gentle curves to have the ability to decide how brilliant the burst was.

She additionally used knowledge from ground-based observatories and the Swift gamma-ray satellite tv for pc to find out the burst’s distance and different qualities about it.

“Because the burst reached its peak brightness later and had a peak brightness that was higher than most bursts, it allowed the TESS telescope to make multiple observations before the burst faded below the telescope’s detection limit,” Smith mentioned. “We’ve provided the only space-based optical follow-up on this exceptional burst.”

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