In the blink of an eye, a massive star more than 2 billion light-years away lost a million-year-long fight against gravity and collapsed, triggering a supernova and forming a black hole at its center.
This newborn black hole belched a fleeting yet astonishingly intense flash of gamma rays known as a gamma-ray burst (GRB) toward Earth, where it was detected by NASA's Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory on 19 December 2016.
Astronomers caught the enduring "afterglow" of one of these cataclysmic explosions with both ALMA and the VLA for the first time.
The rebound, or reverse shock, triggered by the GRB’s powerful jets slamming into surrounding debris, lasted thousands of times longer than expected, giving astronomers an unprecedented glimpse into the structure and dynamics of the jets.
A record breaking Gamma-ray burst captured by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Telescope is depicted in the first animation as the comparatively bright spot in the sky and in the second more detailed animation showing only a 20-degree-wide region of the sky.
Earth's atmosphere is very effective at absorbing high energy electromagnetic radiation such as x-rays and gamma rays, so these types of radiation would not reach any dangerous levels at the surface during the burst event itself