Mysterious flash of light may represent new class of stellar phenomena

January 7th, 2009 - 3:14 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Jan 7 (ANI): Scientists have said that a mysterious flash of light, detected by NASAs Hubble Space Telescope in 2006, might represent an entirely new class of stellar phenomena that has previously gone undetected in the universe.

Hubble discovered the cosmic flash on February 21, 2006. It steadily rose in brightness for 100 days, and then dimmed back to oblivion after another 100 days.

The rise and fall in brightness has a signature that simply has never been recorded for any other type of celestial event.

Supernovae peak after no more than 70 days, and gravitational lensing events are much shorter.

Therefore, this observation defies a simple explanation, according to Kyle Barbary of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) in Berkeley, California.

The spectral fingerprints of light coming from the object, cataloged as SCP 06F6, also have eluded identification as being due to any specific element.

One guess is that the features are redshifted molecular carbon absorption lines in a star roughly one billion light-years away.

But, searches through various astronomical survey catalogs for the source of the light have not uncovered any evidence for a star or galaxy at the location of the flash.

The Supernova Cosmology Project at LBNL discovered it serendipitously in a search for supernovae.

Hubble was aimed at a cluster of galaxies 8 billion light-years away in the spring constellation Bootes.

But, the mystery object could be anywhere in between, even in the halo of our own Milky Way galaxy.

Papers published by other researchers since the event was reported, have suggested bizarre possibilities, like, the core collapse and explosion of a carbon rich star, a collision between a white dwarf and an asteroid, or the collision of a white dwarf with a black hole.

But, Barbary does not believe that any model offered so far fully explains the observations.

I dont think we really know what the discovery means until we can observe similar objects in the future, he said. (ANI)

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