Earth has been blasted by a huge explosion from a dead star that’s so powerful that scientists can’t explain it. The gamma rays from the star, called a pulsar, are the most powerful of their kind ever seen.
They’re equivalent to around ten trillion times the amount of energy of visible light – 20 times the energy of light. Scientists don’t know what could have caused the pulsar to emit so much energy, and they’re hoping to find even more powerful blasts from pulsars to better understand how they form.
Pulsars are tiny stars that are only 20 kilometres across and spin really quickly with a strong magnetic field.
Pulsars are made up almost entirely of neutrons, and they’re really heavy – a teaspoon of material has a weight of over five billion tons, which is about 900 times heavier than the Great Pyramid at Giza, according to Emma de Ona Wilhelmi from the High Energy Star System Observatory in Namibia, who saw the explosion. As they spin, the radiation from the pulsar flashes in a regular pattern, like a lighthouse, and anyone in one spot, like the Earth, will be able to see it.