Contact: Robert Sanders
University of California - Berkeley
Caption: This is an illustration of the collapse of a massive star in which the large envelope forms a rotationally supported disk and may even lead to a relativistic jet. This "collapsar" picture may explain at least one class of gamma-ray bursts, cosmic explosions that are a million trillion times as bright as the sun! Gamma-ray bursts last for anywhere from a few milliseconds to several minutes, and for that time they are the brightest source of gamma-rays in the entire observable Universe. The energy from one event is enough to supply the entire world's electrical energy needs for approximately a hundred million billion billion years.
Credit: Tony Piro/Caltech
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Related news release: Neutron stars may be too weak to power some gamma-ray bursts