NASA scientists have spotted a mysterious flash in the universe in the deepest X-ray image ever using its Chandra X-ray Observatory. The flash which is unexplainable has been described by experts as a “completely new type of cataclysmic event”.
The flash, which appeared out of nowhere disappeared suddenly after 24 hours, came from a galaxy located 10.7 billion light years away.
Based on the past data from Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescope, researchers, however, concluded that the source came from a faint, small galaxy located about billion light years away.
The source appeared thousands of times more energetic than all the stars in that galaxy. According to NASA, the flash exploded at a brightness by a factor of a thousand in a few hours. But in a daytime, it faded below the sensitivity of Chandra.
"Ever since discovering this source, we’ve been struggling to understand its origin. It’s like we have a jigsaw puzzle but we don’t have all of the pieces," Franz Brauer, of the Pontfical Catholic University, Chile, said.
According to researchers, there could be three potential causes for the deep-space rays – collapse of a massive star, merger of a neutron star with another star or black hole, or a black hole tearing apart a white dwarf star.
However, none of these theories, say scientists, first the day they have available, which means it remains a mystery.
"We may have observed a completely new type of cataclysmic event," said one of the researchers Kevin Schawinski, from ETH Zurich in Switzerland.
"Whatever it is, a lot more observations are needed to work out what we're seeing."
No event similar to this one has ever been detected anywhere else in the Universe and scientists say they are struggling to find its origin.
"Ever since discovering this source, we've been struggling to understand its origin," said team member Franz Bauer, from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.
"It's like we have a jigsaw puzzle but we don't have all of the pieces."
Few potential hypotheses are going around on the bizarre explosion. Out of the three main ones, two of them point towards gamma-ray bursts (GRBs).
"None of these ideas fits the data perfectly," said researcher Ezequiel Treister, also from Chile's Pontifical Catholic University.
"But then again, we've rarely if ever seen any of the proposed possibilities in actual data, so we don't understand them well at all."
Well, the researchers now hasve plans to scan through the Chandra archive and also use data from the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton telescope and NASA's Swift satellite to see if any other evidence of a similar event occurred in the Universe.
Also, they will follow up with more Chandra observations on the galaxy. While some may even call such kinds of events as signs of aliens, there is a whole lot going on in the Universe and we still are unaware about it.
The study will be published in the June issue of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Here are the three explanations by researchers:
1. A collapse of a massive star may have caused the flash. A merger of a neutron star with another neutron star or black hole can also be a cause.
2. A gamma-ray burst event that lies beyond the small galaxy may have resulted in the flash.
3. A medium-sized black hole that tore apart a white dwarf star may have caused the flash.