Scientists have discovered the source of the brightest burst of light ever recorded in the Universe. However, in finding where this particular phenomenon comes from, they were confronted with two bigger mysteries, such as where heavy elements such as platinum and gold ultimately come from.

The burst of light, detected in 2022, is now known to have had a star that had exploded at its heart, according to researchers. But this explosion, by itself, would not be enough for such an intense glow. According to what is valid until today such stars known as supernova, are those that also produce all the heavy elements in the universe. But the research team found none of that evidence, as it should have, raising new questions about it how precious metals are ultimately produced.

Professor Catherine Heymans of the University of Edinburgh and Scotland’s Astronomer Royal, who is independent of the research team, said results like these help advance science.

“The Universe is an amazing, wonderful and amazing place, and I love the way it poses these conundrums for us. The fact that it doesn’t give us the answers we want is great, because we can go back to the design and think again and come up with better theories.”he said.

The burst was spotted by telescopes in October 2022. It came from a distant galaxy 2.4 billion light-years away, emitting light at all frequencies. But it was particularly intense in its gamma rays, which are a more penetrating form of x-rays.

The gamma-ray burst lasted seven minutes and was so powerful it was off-scale, overwhelming the instruments that detected it. Subsequent readings showed that the explosion was 100 times brighter than anything ever recorded before, giving her the nickname the “brightest of all time” or otherwise “BOAT” (Brightest Of All Time).

C-ray bursts are associated with supernova explosions, but this one was so bright that it couldn’t be easily explained. The burst was so bright that it initially dazzled the instruments on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The telescope had only recently been commissioned, and this was an incredible stroke of luck for astronomers who wanted to study the phenomenon, because such powerful eruptions are estimated to occur once every 10,000 years.

As the light faded, one of James Webb’s instruments could see that a supernova explosion had indeed occurred. But she wasn’t as strong as they expected. So why was the γ-ray burst off the scale? they began to wonder.

Dr. Peter Blanchard, who co-led the research team, doesn’t know. But he wants to know. He plans to keep James Webb longer to investigate other supernova remnants.

“It could be said that these gamma-ray bursts and supernova explosions are not necessarily directly linked and could be separate processes going on.”he told BBC News.

Dr Tanmoy Laskar, from the University of Utah and co-leader of the study, said BOAT’s power could be explained by the way jets of material were ejected, as is common during supernovae. But if these jets are narrow, they produce a more focused beam of light.

“It’s like focusing the beam of a lens on a narrow pillar, as opposed to a broad beam that spills over an entire wall”he said. “In fact, this was one of the narrowest jets observed for a γ-ray burst so far, which might tell us the afterglow looked as bright as it was.”

Revisiting the theory

But what about the missing gold? The current theory taught to all astronomers at university is that one of the ways heavy elements – such as gold, platinum, lead and uranium – are produced is in the extreme conditions created during supernovae. . These are scattered throughout the galaxy and are used in the formation of planets, which, according to the theory, gave rise to the metals found on Earth.

But the researchers found no evidence of heavy elements around the exploding star.

“Theorists need to go back and look at why an event like BOAT doesn’t produce heavy evidence when theories and simulations predict it should,” says Dr Blanchard.

The research was published in the journal Nature Astronomy.