Ultrahot, ultrafast explosion called 'the Camel' has astronomers puzzled

Illustration showing how a black hole is sucking material from its accretion disc. Camel explosion, which was recently discovered, could have been the birth of a black hole.
Astronomers discovered an ancient, massive explosion in October 2020 that was tearing through a galaxy a billion light-years away from Earth. The explosion appeared suddenly, reached its peak brightness in a few days, and quickly disappeared again within a month. This indicates that a cosmic event of extreme magnitude, such as the formation of a neutron star or black hole, had just occurred.

Astronomers refer to sudden, bright blasts such as these fast blue optical transits (FBOTs) as they are named for their extreme heat and rapid evolution.

You can also call it "the Camel" if you like.

Although it may seem strange to give the object this nickname (a play on its technical name ZTF20acigmel), it is fitting considering the blast's speed and power. Similar explosions were detected around 200 million light years from Earth in 2018. Another 2020 FBOT was dubbed the "Koala" (also a play upon its technical name).

These three cuddly-wuddly, FBOTs are a class apart when it comes to starbursts. Unlike supernovas, which are the massive explosions of stars that cause them to run out of fuel and collapsing on themselves, FBOTs appear to disappear and return in weeks rather than years.

Even after the visible light fades, FBOTs remain radiation powerhouses. Astronomers examined the Camel in different wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum to see some of the effects of the initial blast. They published their paper Oct. 13 to arXiv.

Researchers discovered that the Camel explosion was also visible in radio frequencies. This suggests that the blast was traveling at a fraction of the speed light (more than 100,000,000 mph or 160,000,000 kmh), according to the researchers. These bright radio emissions are usually caused by synchrotron radiation. This is when charged particles travel through a magnetic field at only a fraction the speed of light.

A powerful engine roared behind the blast for many months. The blast was glowing with Xrays long after the visible light had faded, according to the team. The team suggested that the Camel's intense X-ray emissions could be caused by something, such as a black hole, or a neutron Star, just like the Cow.

It is possible that FBOTs are a rare moment of cosmic creation blasts. They occur when an old star collapses, collapsing into a fast-spinning black hole or neutron star right in front of our eyes.

These processes have not been witnessed by astronomers (as far they know). It's therefore difficult to predict the effects of the radiation flood. One thing is certain: The Cow, Koala, and Camel aren't your average mammals. They are not average.

Original publication on Live Science