Study of Gamma Ray Bursts, the most powerful explosions in the Universe
Gamma Ray Bursts (GRBs) are the most violent explosions in the Universe since the Big Bang. They are unpredictable, short (lasting ~0.01-1000 s) and happen at random times in random directions in the sky.
Observations of afterglows revealed that GRBs occur in other galaxies and are produced in two ways: by core collapse of a massive, rapidly rotating star, and by a merger of two neutron stars and/or black holes. A black hole or a neutron star with very strong magnetic field is produced and in a matter of seconds huge amount of energy is released – comparable to the energy released by a supernova explosion in several months or emitted by our Sun in several billion years (animation of a Gamma Ray Burst, source: NASA).
GRBs are interesting also for physics in general, because they are laboratories for ultra-relativistic explosions coming from regions with very strong gravitational and magnetic fields. They are also possible sources of high-energy particles and gravitational waves. GRBs enable studies and testing of the laws of physics in extreme conditions, which can not be reproduced in laboratories on Earth.
At UNG GRBs are studied by Prof. Dr. Andreja Gomboc, who collaborates with astronomers at Astrophysics Research Institute (Liverpool John Moores University), University of Bath, Universita degli Studi di Ferrara and INAF Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera. Prof. Gomboc is PI of the project for observing GRBs’ optical afterglows with the robotic Liverpool Telescope at Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos on Canary Island La Palma. The Liverpool Telescope can measure an optical afterglow polarisation in just a few minutes after a GRB’s detection. With these observations Prof. Gomboc and collaborators showed, that in GRBs there exists a strong and ordered magnetic field (Mundell et al. 2013, Nature).