NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope revealed a new type of stellar explosion called a kilonova. Kilonovas are about 1,000 times brighter than a nova, but they are 1/10th to 1/100th the brightness of a typical supernova.
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope recently provided the strongest evidence yet that short-duration gamma ray bursts are produced by the merger of two small, super-dense stellar objects.
The evidence is in the detection of a new kind of stellar blast called a kilonova, which results from the energy released when a pair of compact objects crash together. Hubble observed the fading fireball from a kilonova last month, following a short gamma ray burst (GRB) in a galaxy almost 4 billion light-years from Earth. A kilonova had been predicted to accompany a short-duration GRB, but had not been seen before.
“This observation finally solves the mystery of the origin of short gamma ray bursts,” said Nial Tanvir of the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom. Tanvir lead a team of researchers using Hubble to study the recent short-duration GRB. “Many astronomers, including our group, have already provided a great deal of evidence that long-duration gamma ray bursts (those lasting more than two seconds) are produced by the collapse of extremely massive stars. But we only had weak circumstantial evidence that short bursts were produced by the merger of compact objects. This result now appears to provide definitive proof supporting that scenario.”