What Was the Glowing Object that Burst in the Sky this Summer?
Well a team of scientists led by Northwestern University believe that they are getting closer to figuring out the answer to that question.
This past summer, on June 17, an object which scientists dubbed AT2018cow or The Cow mysteriously showed up on The ATLAS Survey’s twin telescopes. The object was astoundingly bright and appeared to be in the Hercules constellation, 200 million miles away. Almost as quickly as it appeared, the object vanished, leaving scientists scratching their heads. They believed it must be a supernova but it was around 100 times brighter than a normal supernova and disappeared much faster.
Now, an international team made up of members from multiple institutions believe that the telescopes captured the exact moment a star collapsed and formed a compact object. They’re unsure exactly what the object is but are speculating that it could be a neutron star or even a black hole. They believe that the bright glow was caused by the resulting debris crashing around the object’s event horizon.
Occurrences like this are incredibly rare and to catch one on camera, as it is happening, is obviously even rarer. This is a pretty big thing for astronomers who say that it will give them data to help them have a better understanding of the physics at work during creation of a solid object from a star.
According to Raffaella Margutti, professor of physics and astronomy at Northwestern, this is the first time humans have ever seen the creation of a black holes or neutron star.
This is fascinating for astronomers and will deepen their understanding of black hole formation. It was just luck that the phenomenon was caught by the telescopes this time. It begs the question, what else is happening and how much are we missing every second?