A few months ago, astronomers began studying the brightest explosion ever observed: A massive gamma radiation burst that shot out of a star as it was collapsing into a black hole. The explosion was so bright that people could see it with their naked eyes. Now all the astrophysicists who watched the explosion have done their post-mortems and have discovered something awesome and strange. The gamma burst was aimed almost exactly at Earth, which is why researchers were able to see a stream of matter moving at almost the speed of light. No, it wasn't an alien signal, though that would be cool. It was just by chance that one of the gamma radiation bursts zoomed to Earth at 99.99995 percent the speed of light. In a report published today in Nature, the researchers say that this is probably the fastest matter in the universe, and that it comes wrapped inside a slightly slower-moving, wider jet of matter. One of the scientists reported that the inner, super-fast jet is so narrow that it's "1/100th the angular size of the full Moon." So Earthlings were lucky indeed to be in its path to make these observations. According to PhysOrg:
Dr. Jonathan Granot from the University of Hertfordshire, lead theorist on the paper, explained "What really makes this GRB unique is its extremely bright prompt optical emission (visible with the naked-eye), which coincides in time with the gamma-rays, and was recorded with amazing time resolution. The optical and gamma-rays are in distinct spectral components, produced by a different emission mechanisms, but most likely came from the same physical region, far from the progenitor star."
I still think there's room here for a conspiracy theory. Jet just happens to hit Earth? And we're still not sure if the optical rays and gamma rays came from the same event? Is this a message hidden in a gamma ray burst?! Hey, that's how it would happen on Star Trek, OK? Naked Eye Gamma Burst Aimed at Earth [via PhysOrg]