Brightest Gamma-ray Burst Shines Light on Milky Way Structure

GRB Burst
XMM Newton's view of the remnant of the record-setting gamma-ray burst 221009A. ESA

The brightest gamma-ray burst ever seen in 2022 still puzzles astronomers.

The more researchers look at a recent record-setting event, the stranger it gets.

The story begins on the evening of October 9th, 2022, when NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift orbiting observatory detected a strong X-ray outburst. The source was in the direction of the constellation of Sagitta the Arrow along the galactic plane, suggesting a source in our own Milky Way galaxy. Follow-up observations from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope and the Earth-based European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope however, soon revealed that the source was much more distant, emanating from a gamma-ray burst lying beyond our galaxy. This outburst only appeared to have happened along our line of sight as seen through the plane own galaxy from our Earthbound perspective.

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