Holy cow! Mysterious blast studied with NASA telescopes leaves science puzzled

Using data from multiple NASA missions, including the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), two groups are publishing papers that provide possible explanations for the Cow's origins.

Just as the Moon's gravity causes Earth's oceans to bulge, creating tides, a black hole has a similar but more powerful effect on an approaching star, ultimately breaking it apart into a stream of gas .

" We think a tidal disruption created the quick, really unusual burst of light at the beginning of the event and best explains Swift's multiwavelength observations as it faded over the next few months ," Lien added.

Margutti's team analyzed data from multiple observatories, including NASA's NuSTAR, European Space Agency's XMM-Newton and INTEGRAL satellites, and the National Science Foundation's Very Large Array.

The team proposes that the bright optical and ultraviolet flash from the Cow signalled a supernova and that the X-ray emissions that followed shortly after the outburst arose from gas radiating energy as it fell onto a compact object.

"If we're seeing the birth of a compact object in real time, this could be the start of a new chapter in our understanding of stellar evolution," said Brian Grefenstette, NuSTAR instrument scientist, Caltech and a co-author of Margutti's paper.

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