Artist's impression of a collapsing star that is producing a gamma-ray burst jets. Scientists have detected the shortest gamma-ray-burst in history. Credit: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva

Unraveling the Enigma of Long Gamma-Ray Bursts

For the first time, astrophysicists developed a numerical model to trace the behavior of jets in black hole-neutron star collisions.


Debunking cosmic impossibilities is becoming the norm in the field of astrophysics. Researchers at Northwestern University recently shattered previous beliefs about the origins of long gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), illuminating our understanding of black holes in the process.

Last year, Northwestern scientists surprised the world by demonstrating that long GRBs can result from the collision between a neutron star and other cosmic entities like black holes or another neutron star. This revelation defied long-standing scientific conjectures.

Groundbreaking Research Unveiled

Published in the Astrophysical Journal, the latest study from Northwestern delves deeper into the mysteries surrounding long GRBs. It specifically explains the dazzling burst of light associated with these cosmic events. For the first time, astrophysicists developed a numerical model to trace the behavior of jets in black hole-neutron star collisions. They found that these jets can emanate from remnants of the swallowed neutron star.

The study identifies the mass and magnetic field of the black hole’s surrounding accretion disk as crucial elements. These factors determine the luminosity and duration of the jet launched by the black hole.


A Leap Forward in Black Hole Physics

This pioneering research not only demystifies the nature of long GRBs but also deepens our understanding of the mechanics and characteristics of black holes and their accretion disks.

Northwestern’s Ore Gottlieb and Danat Issa, the driving forces behind the study, broke new ground by creating a comprehensive simulation of the entire neutron star merger process, a feat never before accomplished due to computational constraints.

Upending Previous Beliefs

Initial observations of the GRB event in December 2021 led researchers to believe it was the result of a collapsing massive star. However, the discovery of a kilonova, a rare cosmic event, challenged this belief, reshaping our understanding of long GRBs’ origins.

By dissecting the entire merger process, from pre-merger to the GRB’s end, Gottlieb and Issa have taken a significant step toward understanding these complex events. Their innovative approach involved using two simulations to make the entire process computationally feasible.


Going forward, the researchers aim to include the role of neutrino cooling to enhance the physical accuracy of their simulations, with the ultimate goal of painting a more complete picture of neutron star mergers.

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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