X-ray flashes and supernovae linked – University of Copenhagen

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30 August 2006

X-ray flashes and supernovae linked

Region of the sky around the newly discovered X-ray flash/Supernova SN2006aj.

Excerpt from ESO press release, August 30, 2006
An international team, including DARK astrophysicists Johan P.U. Fynbo, Jesper Sollerman, and Jens Hjorth, have for the first time made the link between an X-ray flash and a supernova. Such flashes are the little siblings of gamma-ray bursts (GRB) and this discovery suggests the existence of a population of events less luminous than ‘classical’ GRBs, but possibly much more numerous. These findings appear in an article in the 31 August issue og Nature and in an article in Astronomy & Astrophysics .

The X-ray flash, called GRB 060218 after the date it was discovered, originated in a star-forming galaxy about 440 million light-years away toward the constellation Aries. This is the second-closest gamma-ray burst ever detected. Moreover, the burst of gamma rays lasted for nearly 2,000 seconds; most bursts last a few milliseconds to tens of seconds. The explosion was surprisingly dim, however.

The team found hints of a budding supernova. Using, among others, the Nordic Optical Telescope and ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, the scientists have watched the afterglow of this burst grow brighter in optical light. This brightening, along with other telltale spectral characteristics in the light, strongly suggests that a supernova was unfolding. Within days, the supernova became apparent.

Full press release at ESO web-site.

NASA press release.