Within ten days, the mysterious explosion was brighter than a billion suns. After a few weeks it was almost completely extinguished. This may seem like a long time for an explosion, but by space standards it is a very short time.
“It has practically disappeared,” says Matt Nicholls, one of the researchers behind the discovery from Queen’s University Belfast.
Brighter than a supernova
A supernova is a light explosion that occurs when large stars run out of fuel and collapse in on themselves, but the new explosion didn’t behave like a supernova at all.
It was brighter than almost all known supernovae and much faster.
– The galaxy where this happened does not contain a star massive enough to end up a supernova, says Matt Nichols.
In fact, within a month, the brightness of a supernova is usually half of what it was before, but at the same time the mysterious explosion has faded to just one percent of its brightness point.
Named after the football team
The explosion was dubbed the “Luminous Rapid Coolant”, which roughly translates to “bright and fast-cooling”. It was named in part because the researchers are supporters of the Liverpool FC football team.
Since the discovery, two older sightings that may also be LFC have been observed, one from 2009 and one from 2020, but still nothing fits scientists’ models of space explosions.
The most likely explanation is that a black hole collided with a star, Nichols says.
Scientists are puzzled
But this explanation doesn’t work either.
A collision between a star and a black hole releases X-rays, but no such radiation has been detected in the LFC.
Another possibility is that scientists around the world are wrong about collisions between stars and black holes, or that very little is known about the new mysterious explosion.
Regardless, more observations will be needed so that the new phenomenon does not remain a mystery.
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