NASA Missions Study What May Be a 1-In-10,000-Year Gamma-ray Burst

On Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022, a pulse of intense radiation swept through the solar system so exceptional that astronomers quickly dubbed it the BOAT—the brightest of all time. The source was a gamma-ray burst (GRB), the most powerful class of explosions in the Universe. The burst triggered detectors on numerous spacecraft, and observatories around the globe followed up. After combing through all of this data, astronomers can now characterize just how bright it was and better understand its scientific impact.

Delving Back Deeper: Towards GRBs as Standard Candles

Oct 1, 2020
Standard candles are objects with fixed luminosities that can be calculated by taking advantage of well-established relationships between an object’s luminosity and its physical properties—relationships that are independent of the object’s distance. Such objects enable the calculation of accurate astronomical distances. The furthest well-established standard candles to date are Type Ia supernovae, but GRBs have been observed at much greater distances (up to 13.2 billion light years vs. 11 billion light years for Type Ia supernovae). Thus, GRBs could provide accurate distances to events that happened only a few hundred millions years after the Big Bang, very close to when stars began to form in the Universe.