A super-short gamma-ray burst defies astronomers’ expectations

A surprisingly short gamma-ray burst has astronomers rethinking what triggers these celestial cataclysms.

The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope detected a single-second-long blast of gamma rays, dubbed GRB 200826A, in August 2020. Such fleeting gamma-ray bursts, or GRBs, are usually thought to originate from neutron star smashups (SN: 10/16/17). But a closer look at the burst revealed that it came from the implosion of a massive star’s core.

In this scenario, the core of a star collapses into a compact object, such as a black hole, that powers high-speed particle jets. Those jets punch through the rest of the star and radiate powerful gamma rays before the outer layers of

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