Wen-Fai Fong & team observes an extraordinary, short gamma-ray burst
July 14, 2020Prof. Wen-fai Fong and her group have observed an extraordinary example of a short gamma-ray burst (SGRB) as reported in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
SGRBs are extremely fast and faint, so observing one is difficult. The burst is known as SGRB181123B, which occurred just 3.8 billion years after the Big Bang. This burst is special because it is very far away – significantly farther than the few dozen SGRBs already known. As Wen-fai explains:
“We certainly did not expect to discover a distant SGRB, as they are extremely rare and very faint…We perform ‘forensics’ with telescopes to understand its local environment, because what its home galaxy looks like can tell us a lot about the underlying physics of these systems.”
Thanks to the quick and expert work of Wen-fai and her team, this particular SGRB is well-localized. SGRB181123B is in an era where star formation is rapid and galaxies are growing quickly. Wen-fai’s team is motivated to discover what insights the SGRB will bring to continue studies of past events and also discover of future ones within this era.
Congratulations to Wen-fai and her team!
- Northwestern Now: “Short gamma ray burst leaves most-distant optical afterglow ever detected”
- NSF Press: “Gemini Observatory’s Quick Reflexes Capture Fleeting Flash”
- CNN: “Astronomers witness 'teenage' years of our universe in explosion”