A mysterious cosmic explosion detected about 200 million light years away may be the exact moment a star collapsed to form a black hole or neutron star, scientists say.
Researchers from Northwestern University in the US are getting closer to understanding the mysteriously bright object that burst in the northern sky this summer.
On June 17, the ATLAS survey’s twin telescopes in Hawaii found a spectacularly bright anomaly 200 million light years away in the Hercules constellation.
Dubbed AT2018cow or “The Cow,” the object quickly flared up, then vanished almost as quickly. After combining several imaging sources, including hard X-rays and radiowaves, the multi-institutional team now speculates that the telescopes captured the exact moment a star collapsed to form a compact object, such as a black hole or neutron star.
The stellar debris, approaching and swirling around the object’s event horizon, caused the remarkably bright glow. This rare event will help astronomers better understand the physics at play within the first moments of the creation of a black hole or neutron star.