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NASA’s Hubble solves mystery of the origin of short gamma ray bursts


Strong evidence from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope lends support to the theory that short-duration gamma ray bursts are produced from the merging of two small, super-dense stellar objects.

The proof came with the detection of a new stellar blast, called a kilonova. A kilonova occurs when a pair of compact objects crash together, releasing a burst of energy. Hubble observed one such energy release last month, subsequent to a short gamma ray burst (GRB) in a galaxy 4 billion light-years from Earth. It has long been predicted that a kilonova would accompany a short-duration GRB, but this is the first time anyone has witnessed such an event.

Nial Tanvir, from the University of Leicester, led a team of researchers to study the short-duration GRB. There has been a great deal of evidence that long-duration GRBs, lasting longer than two seconds, originate from the collapse of extremely massive stars, but only weak circumstantial evidence that short bursts were the result of a merger of weak objects.

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