Rhodes Scholar Finalist

Rhodes Scholar Finalist: Eliza Diggins


February 27, 2024 |

The University of Utah is proud to announce that Eliza Diggins, a senior Honors student double-majoring in physics and applied mathematics, was selected as a finalist for the 2024 Rhodes Scholarship.

One of the oldest and most celebrated awards for international study in the world, Rhodes Scholarships provide tuition and living expenses for two or three years of graduate study at the University of Oxford.  Along with “outstanding scholarly achievements,” Rhodes Scholars must demonstrate “character, commitment to others and to the common good, and the potential for leadership in whatever domains their careers may lead.”

Diggins, who hails from Sandy, Utah, is a cross-disciplinary researcher in astrophysics and epidemiology. She is completing an Honors thesis titled “Constraining Modified Gravity Using Galaxy Cluster Dynamics” and has worked throughout her undergraduate career to couple mathematical and computational skills with observational data and statistical method. She plans to carry these skills forward in a graduate program in astrophysics, where she intends to investigate the dynamics of galactic and extra-galactic systems and become a more holistically skilled researcher, capable in both theory and observation.

In addition to excelling in her coursework, Diggins has contributed to research projects and labs run by College of Science faculty, Daniel Wik, associate professor of physics and astronomy; Frederick Adler, professor of mathematics and director of the School of Biological Sciences; as well as Melodie Weller, assistant professor, School of Dentistry. These faculty members celebrated Diggins’ “drive, scientific curiosity and collaborative nature,” “the tremendous energy and enthusiasm” she brings to her academic work, and her “ability to convey mathematically intensive and innovative research.” Along with her selection as a Rhodes Scholarship finalist, Diggins received a nationally competitive Goldwater Scholarship, an Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) award, a Wilkes Center Scholarship (awarded by the Wilkes Center for Climate Science and Policy in the College of Science) and a Thomas J. Parmley Scholarship for Outstanding Undergraduate Student from the Department of Physics & Astronomy. Finally, Diggins serves as the inaugural chair of the Physics & Astronomy Student Lecture Series and was selected to present her research at the American Society for Virology conference and to members of the Utah state government at Research on Capitol Hill (ROCH).

“Diggins’ research on the gravitational properties of X-Ray emitting intra-cluster medium and Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND), galaxy evolution, and plasma dynamics answers important galactic questions and will allow her to contribute to the scientific community in myriad ways, ensuring that she will contribute to the future of scholarship about not only our world, but our universe as well,” says Ginger Smoak, director of the Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships. Smoak also celebrated Diggins’ community work and how it “aligned with Rhodes Scholarship values, including a commitment to others and to the common good.”

Diggins taught English to low-income immigrant adults through the Adult Education Program at Guadalupe School in Salt Lake City and facilitates a transgender friendship circle for Encircle, a local nonprofit committed to advancing the well-being of LGBTQ+ youth, young adults, and their families. Her community recommenders praised her as one of the “brightest, most authentic, and committed people” they had met and stated that “her dedication transformed lives.”

For Diggins, competing for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship was “a difficult but illuminating experience.” She felt honored, she explained, “to meet and build relationships with the other Rhodes candidates, each of whom brought unique and interesting perspectives and qualifications.” Overall, she found the experience “instructive in forcing me to think very deeply about various aspects of my life.”

Per the Rhodes Trust, more than 2,500 students began the application process this year; 862 were ultimately endorsed by 249 different colleges and universities; 240 applicants from 90 different colleges and universities reached the finalist stage of the competition. Since 1904, the University of Utah has had 23 Rhodes Scholarship recipients, including Sabah Sial in 2023 (see https://nationallycompetitivescholarships.utah.edu/student-spotlights/sabah-sial/).

Diggins was advised throughout the Rhodes Scholarship application process by the University of Utah’s Office of Nationally Competitive Scholarships (ONCS) housed in the Honors College. ONCS staff members assist outstanding University of Utah students and recent alumni in developing competitive applications, preparing for interviews, and securing University endorsements for a variety of prestigious nationally competitive scholarships.

To learn more, see https://nationallycompetitivescholarships.utah.edu/

This story originally appeared in @TheU.

How Career Services Put This Grad on the Right Data Path

How Career Services Put This Grad on the Right Data Path

Riley Murray, double-major in physics and linguistics and a minor in mathematics, knew she wanted to pursue a master’s degree after graduation. What she didn't expect was landing a research job in her “gap year” that aligned seamlessly with her interests in data science and natural language processing.

Riley credits customized guidance from the College of Science Career Coaches, particularly Laura Cleave, for equipping her to identify and excel in her current role.

by Bianca Lyon

 

 

The ‘Barbenheimer Star’

The ‘Barbenheimer Star’

Astronomy’s new blockbuster was announced in New Orleans during the 2024 American Astronomical Society meeting.

 

Joel Brownstein

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” says Alex Ji of the University of Chicago and SDSS, the lead author of the study. “Whatever happened back then, it must have been amazing. We nicknamed it the ‘Barbenheimer Star’ for its spectacular nucleosynthesis.”

Ji and colleagues didn’t see the Barbenheimer Star directly. Instead, they followed the trail back in time using a process called “stellar archaeology.” Just as archaeologists use evidence found in the present to reconstruct the past, astronomers use evidence found in today’s stars to reconstruct conditions in the ancient universe. Today’s stars are like chemical time capsules—they preserve what a piece of the universe was like when the star was born.

PHOTO CREDIT: UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO/SDSS-V/MELISSA WEISS (Left) Long ago, the supernova explosion of the Barbenheimer Star releases an unusual mix of chemical elements in to nearby gas clouds. (Right) Today, we can look at J0931+0038 to see that unusual mix of elements and reconstruct the history of the Barbenheimer Star.

“As we continue to map the sky, obtaining millions of spectra across the galaxy and extra-galactic black holes, astronomers are making great strides in adding to our understanding of how objects in the universe evolve,” says Joel Brownstein, research associate professor in the University of Utah’s Department of Physics & Astronomy and co-author of the study.

Brownstein is the head of data for SDSS and runs the Science Archive Server (SAS), which is hosted by the U’s Center for High Performance Computing. The SAS stores data transferred to Utah from the survey’s telescopes at Apache Point Observatory in North America and Las Campanas Observatory in South America. To manage the massive data flow, Brownstein led the effort to manage the pipelines that run on the SAS, which perform the scientific data reductions for shepherding the raw data from the telescopes into usable information, known as spectra, for thousands of SDSS members to access and analyze.

“It’s like making a daily feast,” Brownstein says. “Only a few people might make the meal’s courses, but everyone sits down to dinner. The pipelines are cooked by a few people, but millions of individual spectra and their associated parameters are consumed by thousands of people in the collaboration.”

Read the full article by Lisa Potter in @TheU

Kevin Davenport-Physics Circle

Overcoming Physics Phobia

“The core concept of physics is a physical intuition about the world,” Kevin Davenport says. “Human beings love to think about puzzles and problem solving.”

 

Davenport, who earned his doctorate at the U in 2019 is now an assistant lecture professor in the department of physics and astronomy and recipient of the College of Science’s 2023 Distinguished Educator Award. 

Inspired by the U's "Math Circle," one of the most well-established in the nation, Davenport, together with colleagues Oleg Starykh and Tugdual LeBohec, has been instrumental in creating Utah Physics Circle, a program designed to help high schoolers get involved in physics by fostering the specific type of thinking that physics requires. Meeting monthly, the Circle is built to facilitate the specific problem-solving mindset that will help students succeed in physics classes. “The point of the Physics Circle is to try to develop a group where we can invite people to come in and enjoy problem solving,” Davenport states.

Discipline-specific lenses

Davenport teaches a series of labs for non-majors that have a focus in life sciences. He creates his class with a lens towards students who are new to physics and haven’t mastered the intuitive way of thinking specific to physics. “When I design my classes this way, it's really important to not lose sight of what it feels like to not know how to do this,” he says. “We don't want them to have an experience where we put up this edifice of really complicated terminology and mathematics that seems impenetrable.”

Teaching a class as difficult as physics requires adapting to students and having many ways of teaching the same concepts. “I constantly rebuild my class,” Davenport says. “I'll try to tailor the examples and things we talk about to my students. If there's a lot of biology students, for instance, I'll pick problems that are probably of more interest to them.”

Davenport enjoys teaching students an introduction into physics. Most have very little understanding of physics when they come into a college physics class. They’re affected by what Davenport calls “physics phobia” because of how intimidating and new it is. But Davenport, who has a broad academic and work background in everything from information technology to design is uniquely poised to help students understand physics.

“What's interesting to me is explaining concepts to a large group of people where this is not the thing they've chosen to do with their life,” Davenport says. “I'm deeply interested in communicating complex ideas to people who don't understand the complex ideas initially.”

By CJ Siebeneck

Learn more about how to register as a member of Utah Physics Circle at the department website.

 

Condensed Matter Research Group

The universe within

by Christoph Boehme

The Department of Physics & Astronomy has a dedicated team of Experimental Condensed Matter (CME) Physicists exploring the enigmatic world of condensed matter, in the quest for discoveries that redefine our understanding of nature on the quantum scale.

The University of Utah’s Department of Physics & Astronomy is not just a place of academic inquiry; it is a crucible where the future of science and technology is being forged. The collaborative environment, state-of-the-art facilities, and the visionary leadership of our faculty have created a unique ecosystem for innovation. Here, curiosity-driven research converges with practical problem-solving, leading to discoveries that transcend the traditional boundaries of physics.  

 The CME research laboratories epitomize the department’s commitment to excellence that is not just confined to the CME research laboratories. It extends to the classroom and beyond, where future generations of physicists are nurtured. The department’s educational programs are designed to provide students with a solid foundation in physics and astronomy, while also encouraging them to engage in research projects that contribute to the department’s pioneering work. 

The CME research group, in particular, exemplifies the department's ethos of pushing the frontiers of knowledge while fostering a collaborative and inclusive environment. This group's work, spanning from the study of quantum materials to the development of advanced spintronic devices, is not only a testament to their scientific prowess but also to their commitment to addressing some of the most pressing challenges in physics today.  

A review of the Department's six, celebrated CME laboratory operations reveals a rich landscape where advanced scientific inquiry meets real-world application.

 


 

Distinguished Professor Z. Valy Vardeny revolves around optical, electronic and magnetic properties of novel materials. Using a broad array of materials deposition, electrical, optical and magnetic characterization techniques, including ultrafast transient and steady-state spectroscopy, his work is, both literally and figuratively, shedding light on the behavior of photoexcitations in conducting polymers and hybrid organic-inorganic perovskite materials, which promes candidates for next-generation photovoltaics, lighting, and sensor technologies. The groundbreaking work of Professor  The Vardeny research group’s groundbreaking work on the Rashba effect in hybrid organic-inorganic perovskites, as detailed in a recent article in the Journal Nature Communications, has opened new pathways in understanding and manipulating quantum materials, promising advancements in fields ranging from solar energy to quantum computing. 

 

 

 



Adjacent to Prof. Vardeny’s lab in the basement of the James Fletcher Building, Professor Shanti Deemyad and her research group explore the frontiers of matter under extreme conditions, especially extreme pressure. Her research focuses on the intriguing behavior of quantum materials like superconductors and quantum solids under varying pressures and temperatures. The elucidation of the Fermi surface of lithium under high pressure that she and her coworkers recwently published in the Physical Review, is a testament to the department’s CME research endeavor to push the boundaries of known physics. Prof. Deemyad’s discoveries not only contribute to our understanding of quantum materials, but also pave the way for developing materials with unprecedented properties, potentially transforming industries from energy to aerospace.
 

 


Across from Prof. Deemyad’s lab, Professor Vikram Deshpande’s laboratory is a hub of research activity focusing on atomically-thin nanostructures, so called 2D-materials. This work includes research on Dirac materials like graphene and topological insulators, a cutting-edge area of contemporary condensed matter physics. Professor Deshande’s The group’s landmark study on emergent helical edge states in a hybridized three-dimensional topological insulator, published last year in Nature Communications, not only highlights the department's forefront position in exploring new quantum states but also opens the door to applications in spintronics and quantum computing. This research is a step towards harnessing the unique properties of quantum materials for practical technologies that could revolutionize the electronic and computational landscape. 


Another, cutting edge and just recently (2022) built CME research lab within the Department of Physics & Astronomy is led Professor Eric Montoya’s lab, offering research on an array of magnetic materials and spintronic devices, being another testament to the department’s expertise in the field of magnetism and spin physics. Professor Montoya’s innovative work on the development of the easy-plane spin Hall oscillators, detailed in a recent Communications Physics publication, not only contributes to the fundamental understanding of spin physics but also offers exciting prospects for advancements in telecommunications and spintronics-based computing. The potential of this research in creating more efficient and powerful electronic devices is immense, indicating a future where technology is seamlessly integrated with advanced physics. 


Located next to Professor Montoya’s research laboratories in the Intermountain Network for Scientific Computing Center, is Professor Andrey Rogachev’s research group, who investigates the fascinating world of superconducting nanowires and thin films. Their groundbreaking study titled “Pair‐breaking quantum phase transition in superconducting nanowires” provided crucial insights into the behavior of these low-dimensional structures under external magnetic fields, contributing significantly to our understanding of quantum critical phenomena. This research not only furthers our knowledge of superconductivity but also provides a foundation for future explorations into quantum computing and ultra-sensitive magnetic field sensors.


Finally, there is my own research group which is a place where spin physics, quantum mechanics, and material science converge, with our research focus on the exploration of spin-dependent electronic transitions in condensed matter. The Christoph Boehme lab’s recent breakthrough demonstrating the existence of Floquet spin states in organic light emitting diodes, published in Nature Communications, is representative of how the department's CME research programs succeed in bridging the gap between quantum physics and practical applications. This research holds great promise for the development of new spin-based information technologies and quantum sensors, offering glimpses into a future where even more quantum phenomena are harnessed for technological advancements. 


Engaging with the Community and Beyond 

The department's efforts to engage with the broader community, including visiting students, scholars, but also anyone interested from the broader community, are an essential part of its mission. The department regularly hosts seminars, workshops, and public lectures to disseminate its findings and foster a dialogue with the public. These events provide a platform for sharing the excitement and significance of the research conducted within the department, inspiring not just the next generation of scientists but also the general public. 

 Visiting CME faculty and potential collaborators will find that the department offers a comprehensive overview of its research operations, showcasing its state-of-the-art facilities and the innovative work being conducted. This engagement is not just about showcasing the department’s achievements; it’s about building partnerships and collaborations that can lead to new discoveries and advancements in the field of physics and astronomy. 

 Envisioning the Future: Transformative Developments

The Applied Science Project: new home for Physics & Astronomy, January 2025.

The Department of Physics & Astronomy is on the cusp of a transformative era, marked by significant developments that promise to redefine its CME research landscape. Two pivotal elements shaping this future are the department's relocation to the newly built Applied Sciences Building and the strategic expansion of its faculty, focusing on CME research. 

The upcoming move of the department to the Applied Sciences Building is more than a change of location; it is a leap into a new realm of possibilities. This state-of-the-art facility, currently under construction, is meticulously designed to cater to the advanced requirements of CME research. The building will not only significantly enhance laboratory capacities but also foster an environment conducive to innovative research and interdisciplinary collaboration. 

The building's modern labs, coupled with office and educational spaces, will provide the perfect platform for researchers to delve deeper into the mysteries of quantum materials and phenomena. This new environment is expected to be a catalyst for groundbreaking discoveries, particularly in fields such as semiconductor and quantum physics, which are central to the department's research focus.  

Complementing the physical expansion is the department's ambitious faculty recruitment initiative, a critical component of its multi-year expansion plan in experimental condensed matter physics. This initiative is not just about adding numbers; it's about enriching the department's intellectual fabric with fresh perspectives and cutting-edge expertise. 

 The relocation to the Applied Sciences Building, combined with the strategic faculty expansion, marks the beginning of a new chapter for the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Utah that holds the promise of groundbreaking research, transformative educational experiences, and a continued legacy of scientific excellence. As the department moves forward, it remains committed to exploring the unknown, pushing the boundaries of knowledge, and fostering a culture of discovery and innovation.  

 The Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Utah is hiring additional faculty and research staff for the Experimental Condensed Matter Research Group. Contact the department for more information.  

Humans of the U: Ramón Barthelemy

“Ideas of social justice, inclusion and equity have always been at the forefront of my mind.

I’m a first-generation in an immigrant family and this has given me a perspective that most other people in physics don’t have. I noticed that there was a trend in who was in the field, with fewer underrepresented and minoritized students and faculty, and this trend had been confirmed by the data. This is something that caught my attention and I got really excited about how we can change this trend to make physics more inclusive. So, when I started my Ph.D. program, I actually switched from nuclear physics to physics education research and started pursuing this line of inquiry. The reason why this work is needed is that physics is incredibly challenged with representation and the experiences of individuals in the community.

I believe my presence adds to the field of physics scholarship. I don’t use deficit language and I don’t use comparisons when talking about marginalized groups. Making these comparisons is inequitable because you’re defining what is ‘normal’ in one group and saying that the other group should be compared to that normal. Instead, we should talk directly to the people being impacted and learn from their experiences to craft policy in order to make a change in the field.

One of the biggest findings that we’ve had is that inclusivity in physics is much more predictive of people staying in the field than exclusivity is predictive of people leaving. What that tells us is that inclusion is a more powerful experience than discrimination. When we think about the climate of physics, a neutral climate is not enough. We have to create an actively inclusive climate if we want to make a change in this field and make sure that everybody is fully included.

I would love to see a physics community that anybody can come to and participate in. I want them to be able to bring their background, their unique perspective and their full self to physics.”

– Ramón Barthelemy, assistant professor, Department of Physics & Astronomy

This story originally appeared in @TheU.

Lightning, camera, gamma ray!

lightning, camera, gamma ray!

In September 2021, an unprecedented thunderstorm blew across Utah’s West Desert. Lightning from this storm produced at least six gamma ray flashes that beamed downward to Earth’s surface and activated detectors at the University of Utah-led Telescope Array. The storm was noteworthy on its own—the array usually clocks one or two of the lightning-triggered gamma rays per year—but recent upgrades led to a new observation by the Telescope Array scientists and their lightning collaborators.

 

“The ability of the Telescope Array Surface Detector to detect downward TGFs is a great example of serendipity in science,” said John Belz, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Utah and co-author of the study. “The TASD was designed to do astroparticle physics, by studying the particle showers produced by energetic atomic nuclei from deep space. Purely by happenchance, the astroparticle showers share many properties—including energy, duration, and size—with the gamma ray showers known as downward TGFs. So in a sense, we are able to operate two groundbreaking science facilities for the price of one.”

Telescope Array collaborators from the University of Utah, Loyola University Chicago, the Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research at New Mexico Tech and the National Institute for Space Research-Brazil (INPE), have installed a suite of lighting instrumentation to the existing Telescope Array, a ground-based grid of surface detectors primarily designed to observe ultra-high energy cosmic rays.

Read the full article by Lisa Potter in @TheU. 

PHOTO CREDIT: RASHA ABBASI Lightning captured with the highspeed camera at 40,000 frames per second.

Cosmic Ray on SciFri

Sci Fri: Cosmic Ray Burst

Around 30 years ago, scientists in Utah were monitoring the skies for cosmic rays when they detected a surprising particle. It struck the atmosphere with much more energy than they had previously seen—enough energy to cause the researchers to dub it the “Oh My God Particle.”

 

John N. Matthews of the U's Department of Astronomy and Physics, standing beside large telescope mirrors at the Telescope Array Project's florescence detector station just outside the Drum Mountains, Millard County, Utah. Photo by Joe Bauman, May 25, 2013. Banner Photo above: The surface detector array of the Telescope Array experiment, deployed by helicopter. Credit: Institute For Cosmic Ray Research, University Of Tokyo

Over the years, a collaboration of researchers in Utah and Japan has detected other powerful rays—about 30 a year—but none that rival the OMG. In 2021, however, a second particle was detected. It was only slightly less powerful than OMG, but still many times more powerful than can be created on Earth. That 2021 particle was named “Amaterasu,” after a sun goddess from the Japanese Shinto religion. The researchers described their observations in a recent issue of the journal Science.

The researchers believe the particle must have come from relatively nearby, cosmically speaking, as otherwise it would likely have collided with something in space and lost its energy. However, when they tried to trace the particle back to its origin in space, they were unsuccessful. Both the OMG particle and the new Amaterasu particle seem to have come from empty regions of space, with no violent events or massive structures to create them.

Dr. John Matthews, a research professor in physics and astronomy and manager of the Cosmic Ray Physics Program at the University of Utah, joins Ira to talk about cosmic rays, how they’re detected, and the challenges of finding the origin of particles like Amaterasu.

Second highest-energy cosmic ray ever

second highest-energy cosmic ray ever

 

In 1991, the University of Utah Fly’s Eye experiment detected the highest-energy cosmic ray ever observed. Later dubbed the Oh-My-God particle, the cosmic ray’s energy shocked astrophysicists. Nothing in our galaxy had the power to produce it, and the particle had more energy than was theoretically possible for cosmic rays traveling to Earth from other galaxies. Simply put, the particle should not exist.

John N. Matthews standing beside large telescope mirrors at the Telescope Array Project's florescence detector station. Credit: Joe Bauman. Banner Photo Aboe: Artist’s illustration of the extremely energetic cosmic ray observed by a surface detector array of the Telescope Array experiment, named “Amaterasu particle.” OSAKA METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY/L-INSIGHT, KYOTO UNIVERSITY/RYUUNOSUKE TAKESHIGE

The Telescope Array has since observed more than 30 ultra-high-energy cosmic rays, though none approaching the Oh-My-God-level energy. No observations have yet revealed their origin or how they are able to travel to the Earth.

On May 27, 2021, the Telescope Array experiment detected the second-highest extreme-energy cosmic ray. At 2.4 x 1020eV, the energy of this single subatomic particle is equivalent to dropping a brick on your toe from waist height. Led by the University of Utah (the U) and the University of Tokyo, the Telescope Array consists of 507 surface detector stations arranged in a square grid that covers 700 km(~270 miles2) outside of Delta, Utah in the state’s West Desert. The event triggered 23 detectors at the north-west region of the Telescope Array, splashing across 48 km2 (18.5 mi2). Its arrival direction appeared to be from the Local Void, an empty area of space bordering the Milky Way galaxy.

“The particles are so high energy, they shouldn’t be affected by galactic and extra-galactic magnetic fields. You should be able to point to where they come from in the sky,” said John Matthews, Telescope Array co-spokesperson at the U and co-author of the study. “But in the case of the Oh-My-God particle and this new particle, you trace its trajectory to its source and there’s nothing high energy enough to have produced it. That’s the mystery of this — what the heck is going on?”

Read the full article by Lisa Potter in @TheU.

Read additional articles about this story at the following. The Mirror (UK); LBC (UK); USA Today; CNN; India Times; Business Insider.

1st detection of heavy element from star merger

first detection of heavy element from star merger

 

“We only know of a handful of kilonovas with any certainty, and this is only the second one for which we have such detailed spectral information” said Tanmoy Laskar, assistant professor at the University of Utah, of the first detection of we have of heavy element from a star merger.

Tanmoy Laskar. Banner photo (above): This image from Webb’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) instrument highlights GRB 230307A’s kilonova and its former home galaxy among their local environment of other galaxies and foreground stars. The neutron stars were kicked out of their home galaxy and traveled the distance of about 120,000 light-years, approximately the diameter of the Milky Way galaxy, before finally merging several hundred million years later. CREDIT: NASA, ESA, CSA, STSCI, ANDREW LEVAN (IMAPP, WARW)

Tanmoy Laskar and colleagues has used multiple space and ground-based telescopes, including NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, and NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, to observe an exceptionally bright gamma-ray burst, GRB 230307A, and identify the neutron star merger that generated an explosion that created the burst. Webb also helped scientists detect the chemical element tellurium in the explosion’s aftermath.

“Just over 150 years since Dmitri Mendeleev wrote down the periodic table of elements, we are now finally in the position to start filling in those last blanks of understanding where everything was made, thanks to Webb,” said Andrew Levan of Radboud University in the Netherlands and the University of Warwick in the UK, lead author of the study.

While neutron star mergers have long been theorized as being the ideal “pressure cookers” to create some of the rarer elements substantially heavier than iron, astronomers have previously encountered a few obstacles in obtaining solid evidence.

Kilonovas are extremely rare, making it difficult to observe these events. Short gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), traditionally thought to be those that last less than two seconds, can be byproducts of these infrequent merger episodes. In contrast, long gamma-ray bursts may last several minutes and are usually associated with the explosive death of a massive star.

The case of GRB 230307A is particularly remarkable. First detected by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope in March, it is the second brightest GRB observed in over 50 years of observations, about 1,000 times brighter than a typical gamma-ray burst that Fermi observes. It also lasted for 200 seconds, placing it firmly in the category of long duration gamma-ray bursts, despite its different origin.

“This burst is way into the long category. It’s not near the border. But it seems to be coming from a merging neutron star,” added Eric Burns, a co-author of the paper and member of the Fermi team at Louisiana State University.

Read the full article by Lisa Potter in @TheU.  Adapted from NASA Webb Space Telescope.