Mysterious cosmic flashes in faraway galaxy leave scientists baffled

Will Worley
At their peak, the flashes were a thousand times brighter than all the other stars in the far off galaxy: Nasa

Astronomers gazing into the sky via some of the most powerful X-ray imaging ever have spotted mysterious cosmic flashes deep in outer space.

For just a few minutes, the flashes were a thousand times brighter and produced a thousand times more energy than all the other stars in its galaxy.

The cosmic explosion was spotted in an small unnamed galaxy 10.7 billion light years from Earth, in a field of space known as Chandra Deep Field-South.

It occurred in 2014 but the entire event lasted just a few hours and after one day no noticeable energy was produced at all.

It is the first time an event of this magnitude has been observed and has left scientists puzzled.

“We may have observed a completely new type of cataclysmic event,” said Kevin Schawinski, of ETH Zurich University. “Whatever it is, a lot more observations are needed to work out what we’re seeing.”

Franz Bauer of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile added: “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.”

Some type of destructive event is cited as the most likely cause, most probably the last moments of a neutron star, white dwarf or massive star.

An event of this type would cause a gamma-ray burst, which are explosions triggered after the collapse of massive stars or mergers with black holes and can be detected by astronomers if the energy is directed at earth.

The images were taken by Nasa’s Chandra X-ray Observatory at Harvard University.

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