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大質量恆星生命歷程藝術示意圖。恆星內部的輕元素核聚變成為重元素,當這一過程無法再抵抗重力時,恆星會驟然坍縮,形成黑洞,並沿著旋轉軸噴發大量能量,是為伽瑪射線暴。

伽瑪射線暴(英語:Gamma-ray burst,縮寫GRB),又稱伽瑪暴,是來自遙遠星系、能量極高的爆炸的光芒。伽瑪射線暴是宇宙中自大爆炸以來能量和亮度都最高的電磁脈衝事件。[1]爆發可持續十毫秒至數小時。[2][3][4]最初的伽瑪射線閃光過後,還會留下時間更長、波長更長的「餘輝」(X光紫外光可見光紅外光微波乃至無線電波)。[5]

當一顆大質量恆星到達生命晚期時,會內爆形成中子星黑洞,這一爆炸過程稱為超新星超高光度超新星英语superluminous supernova。科學家相信,絕大部分伽瑪射線暴都來自於此類爆炸事件。有一部分時間較短的伽瑪射線暴很有可能源自於兩顆中子星碰撞的事件。[6]

伽瑪射線暴的來源星系都在數十億光年之遙,意味著此類爆炸事件的能量極高(爆炸在幾秒鐘內所釋放的能量就足以超過太陽在其百億年生命中所釋放的能量總和),[7]也極為罕見(每個星系在一百萬年內只會出現幾次)。[8]人類在歷史上所觀測到的伽瑪射線暴都源於銀河系以外,不過有一種類似的稱為軟γ射線重複爆發源的爆發現象,則是來自於銀河系內的磁星。科學家推測,假如在銀河系內發生伽瑪射線暴,而且爆發的輻射對向地球,這將造成生物集群灭绝[9]

1967年,原本設計用於探測秘密核武器試驗帆船號衛星英语Vela (satellite)首次探測到伽瑪射線暴。科學家在仔細分析之後,終於在1973年發表此發現。[10]這隨即引發了天文學界的轟動,學者們紛紛提出各種理論模型,試圖解釋這種爆發現象,如彗星互相碰撞或中子星互相碰撞等等。[11]在其後的二十多年間,由於觀測數據的匱乏,林林總總的模型,無一脫穎而出。直到1997年,天文學家在探測到伽瑪射線暴的同時,也觀測到了緊隨的X光和可見光餘輝。利用光譜學分析可見光餘輝的紅移,就可推算爆發來源的距離和總能量。再結合對星系和超新星的研究後,科學家終於能準確測量伽瑪射線暴的確切距離和光度,並且斷定此類事件的確源於遙遠的星系。

歷史编辑

 
BATSE實驗所探測到的所有伽瑪射線暴來源方向。爆發源的分佈具有各向同性,並不集中於銀河系平面(圖的中間橫線)。

1963年,包括美國和蘇聯在內的多國簽署《部分禁止核試驗條約》,但美國懷疑蘇聯仍然在秘密進行核試驗。因此,美國發射了一系列名為帆船號衛星英语Vela (satellite)的太空伽瑪射線探測器,目的是監測在太空進行的核試驗所發出的伽瑪射線。[12]世界協調時1967年7月2日14時19分,帆船3號和4號衛星探測到了一次伽瑪射線閃光,但它卻和所有已知的核爆特徵截然不同。[13]洛斯阿拉莫斯國家實驗室雷·克勒貝薩德爾英语Ray Klebesadel為首的負責團隊對此並沒有合理的解釋,但也並不認為這是一次緊急事件,因此把數據暫時放在一邊,有待進一步調查。接下來美國又接連發射了更多的帆船號衛星,器材也有所改進,但克勒貝薩德爾的團隊仍然探測到一次又一次的神秘伽瑪射線暴。團隊在多個衛星的數據中比較探測到閃光的確切時間,以此推算出16次爆發的大約來源方向,[13]並完全排除了爆發來自於地球或太陽的可能性。探測數據並沒有被列為機密。[14]在詳細分析之後,1973年,克勒貝薩德爾等科學家在《天文物理期刊》上發表了〈來自宇宙的伽瑪射線暴之觀測〉一文。[10]

早期針對伽瑪射線暴的猜想大多都把來源定在銀河系以內。從1991年起,康普頓伽瑪射線天文台(CGRO)所承載的爆發和瞬變源試驗設備(BATSE)記錄了上千次伽瑪射線暴,發現這些爆發事件來自於宇宙各個方向,而並不集中於任何一個方向,亦即爆發源的分佈具有各向同性[15]假如爆發源來自於銀河系內,那麼其分佈會集中於銀河系平面附近。科學家以此推斷,伽瑪射線暴一定來自於銀河系以外。[16][17][18][19]然而,有些主張爆發來自於銀河系內的模型仍然可以解釋各向同性的分佈。[16][20]

2018年10月,天文學家宣佈,2017年發生的伽瑪射線暴GRB 150101B英语GRB 150101B重力波事件GW170817很可能都是兩顆中子星碰撞所產生的。這兩件事件在伽瑪射線可見光X光特徵,乃至其所在星系的特性都有十分相似之處。因此,中子星碰撞事件所引發的千新星可能比科學界最初所預計的更為常見。[21][22][23][24]

2019年爆發的GRB 190114C英语GRB 190114C釋放出的伽瑪射線能量高達1 TeV一萬億電子伏特),是人類探測到能量最高的伽瑪射線暴。[25]2021年,科學家探測到來自銀河系能量為1.4 PeV的伽瑪輻射,比最高能伽瑪射線暴再高出一千倍左右,但它並不屬於伽瑪射線暴。[26]

可能的爆發源天體编辑

在伽瑪射線暴發現後的幾十年間,天文學家曾試圖通過伽瑪射線以外的電磁波觀測爆發來源天體,也就是在最近期發生過爆發的方向尋找對應的天體。考慮在內的有各種天體:白矮星脈衝星超新星球狀星團類星體西佛星系蝎虎座BL型天體等。[27]然而,天文學家並沒有得出明確的結論,[nb 1]而且有若干爆發事件的方向可以準確測量,但那個方向並沒有任何其他明亮的天體。這意味著,伽瑪射線暴的來源要不是十分暗淡的恆星,就一定是極其遙遠的星系。[28][29]科學家相信,要更精準地測量伽瑪射線暴的方向,需建造更先進的衛星和傳訊科技。[30]

餘輝编辑

 
意大利和荷蘭合建的BeppoSAX衛星在1996年4月升空,它能夠準確測量伽瑪射線暴的來源方向,有助天文學家作後續觀測並判斷來源天體。

有多個解釋伽瑪射線暴原理的模型都預測,在最初伽瑪射線閃光過後,爆炸產生的噴發物與星際物質高速碰撞,會產生波長較長、逐漸減弱的「餘輝」。[31]最初探測並不成功,因為在爆發被發現後,很難即刻用其他波長觀測爆發的準確方向。1997年2月,BeppoSAX衛星探測到GRB 970228事件[nb 2]。它緊接著將X光相機對向爆發來源的方向,成功探測到了X光餘輝。威廉·赫歇耳望遠鏡也在原爆發的20小時之後,探測到了逐漸變暗的可見光餘輝。[32]伽瑪射線暴完全消熄之後,天文學家對可見光餘輝的準確來源方向進行深空拍攝,發現一個暗淡而遙遠的星系。[33][34]

由於該星系的光度太暗,因此天文學家在接下來的幾年間都未能測量出其距離。同年,BeppoSAX衛星又測得新的事件GRB 970508。天文學家在僅僅4小時以內就算出它的方向,因而可以更早地開始進行針對性觀測。從爆發源吸收光譜所得出的紅移值為z = 0.835,相等於距離地球60億光年[35]科學家首次得出伽瑪射線暴的準確距離,並找到了爆發來源——一個極遙遠的星系。[33][36]這一發現在天文學界引發了爭論,但爭論在接下來的幾個月內逐漸溫和了下來。翌年,GRB 980425發生後不到一天又發生了超新星SN 1998bw,而且兩者的來源位置相同。科學家從而發現,伽瑪射線暴是和大質量恆星的爆炸息息相關的。[37]

雖然康普頓伽瑪射線天文台和BeppoSAX衛星分別在2000年和2002年退役,但天文學界此時對伽瑪射線暴這一新興領域興致勃勃,研發出一系列專門針對伽瑪射線暴的探測儀器,特別用於觀測緊隨著爆發所發生的後續事件。高能暫現源探測儀英语High Energy Transient Explorer(HETE-2)在2000年升空,2006年退役,這段時間內大部分伽瑪射線暴都是由它發現的。[38]2004年升空的尼爾·格雷爾斯雨燕天文台(Swift)截至2022年仍在服役,是最成功的太空觀測實驗之一。[39][40]Swift搭載了一部敏感度極高的伽瑪射線探測器以及X光和可見光望遠鏡,這些儀器均可以自動快速轉向,充分捕捉爆發後的餘輝。2008年升空的費米伽瑪射線太空望遠鏡(簡稱費米)在一年內能夠探測到數百次爆發,其中光度和能量極高的爆發可以用它搭載的大面積望遠鏡觀測。科學家還對不少地面上的可見光望遠鏡做了升級,為它們安裝了能夠快速響應伽瑪射線暴坐標網絡英语Gamma-ray Burst Coordinates Network訊息的機械控制軟件。在收到伽瑪射線暴發生的訊息之後,這些望遠鏡可以在幾秒鐘以內轉向爆發源的方向,甚至在伽瑪射線仍未熄滅之前就開始進行觀測。[41][42]

自從2000年代以來,天文學家對伽瑪射線暴有了更深入的了解。第一是意識到短伽瑪射線爆發現象很可能和超新星無關,而是中子星碰撞合併所致。第二是發現大部分伽瑪射線暴之後會有X光不穩定閃爍的現象,持續幾分鐘。第三是發現宇宙中最亮的天體(GRB 080319B)和當時已知最遙遠的天體(GRB 090423)。[43][44]

分類编辑

 
伽瑪射線暴的光變曲線

伽瑪射線暴的光變曲線種類繁多,[45]而且每一次爆發的光變曲線都是獨一無二的。[46]爆發時長短至數毫秒,長至數十分鐘。曲線可以有一個高峰,也可以由多個小脈衝所組成。有的脈衝形狀對稱,有的則上坡快,下坡慢。有的爆發事件之前會出現伽瑪射線暴前體英语Gamma-ray burst progenitors,也就是先發生一次弱爆發,接著幾秒鐘至幾分鐘內毫無動靜,然後在發生真正的強烈伽瑪射線暴。[47]有些光變曲線曲折複雜,似乎毫無規律可言。[30]

儘管科學家能夠利用某些簡化的模型推導出大約類似的光變曲線,[48]但在曲線為何如此複雜多變的問題上卻沒有太大的進展。科學家提出了不少分類法,但這些分類規則往往只看光變曲線的表面化特徵,而不看爆發來源天體的確切性質。不過,伽瑪射線暴的爆發時長[nb 3]分佈呈雙峰特徵,意味著存在兩大類爆發:一類為平均0.3秒長的短爆發,另一類為平均30秒長的長爆發。[49]分佈的兩個峰很寬,中間有一大片重疊的區域,在這片區域內的爆發很難判斷屬於長或短類。更進一步的分類法還會考慮爆發時長以外的觀測或理論因素。[50][51][52][53]

短伽瑪射線暴编辑

 
哈勃太空望遠鏡拍攝的千新星爆發餘輝。[54]

短伽瑪射線暴指的是持續時間不到2秒的伽瑪射線暴。此類爆發佔所有爆發的三成左右。2005年以前,科學家從未觀測到來自短爆發的餘輝,因此對此類爆發的來源所知甚少。[55]自此,科學家已觀測到數十次短爆發的餘輝,並判斷出其確切方向。他們發現,有的短爆發來自於恆星形成較少或不形成恆星的區域,例如大型橢圓星系和大型星系團的中心區域,[56][57][58][59]意味著短爆發和大質量恆星無關。另外,短爆發與超新星也沒有關聯,因此短爆發和長爆發是兩種背後原理不同的現象。[60]

科學家最初推測,短爆發是兩顆中子星相互碰撞[61]或一顆中子星與一個黑洞相撞的結果。此類碰撞所產生的爆發星體稱為千新星[62]天文學家在GRB 130603B爆發期間也觀測到了一顆有所關聯千新星。[63][64][65]由於狹義相對論訊息不可超越光速傳遞的原理,短爆發之短又意味著爆發源天體的體型必定是小的。爆發時長為0.2秒,即爆發源的直徑不超過0.2光秒(約6萬公里,地球直徑之四倍)。中子星在2秒以內落入黑洞並發出伽瑪射線之後,其環繞黑洞公轉的剩餘物質(將不再是中子物質)將在數分鐘至數小時內逐漸墮入黑洞,並發出X光。這能夠解釋天文學家所觀測到的X光餘輝。[55]

一部分短伽瑪射線暴可能來自鄰近星系中的軟γ射線重複爆發源的大型耀斑。[66][67]

2017年,科學家探測到重力波事件GW170817,並且在僅僅1.7秒之後有探測到短伽瑪射線暴GRB 170817A。在詳細分析後,科學家確定此次事件來自兩顆中子星碰撞所產生的千新星。[68][61]

長伽瑪射線暴编辑

伽瑪射線暴中有七成屬於長伽瑪射線暴,即爆發時長超過2秒者。此類爆發持續時間之長、餘輝之強,有助於詳細觀測,所以相比短爆發來說,科學家對長爆發了解得更加深入。幾乎每一個經過詳細分析的長伽瑪射線暴都源自於正在快速生成恆星的星系,甚至有的能追溯至核塌縮超新星。因此,可以斷定長爆發的來源是死亡過程中的大質量恆星。[69]科學家在分析高紅移長伽瑪射線暴的餘輝之後,也發現此類爆發源自於恆星形成的區域。[70]

超長伽瑪射線暴编辑

超長伽瑪射線暴指的是位於時長分佈最尾端的長伽瑪射線暴,其持續時間超過若干個小時。有科學家主張,此類爆發應另歸一類,是由藍超巨星的坍縮[71]、黑洞撕裂臨近恆星引發的潮汐瓦解事件英语tidal disruption event[72][73]或新形成的磁星所致。[72][74]至今科學家只觀測到少數幾個這樣的爆發事件,其中被深入研究的有GRB 101225A英语GRB 101225AGRB 111209A英语GRB 111209A等。[73][75][76]人們沒有觀測到更多的超長伽瑪射線暴,可能是因為目前的探測儀器對長時間爆發事件靈敏度較低,而不是因為此類事件在宇宙中罕見。[73]也有科學家認為,這些超長伽瑪射線暴因有其獨特爆發源而要另開一類的理據並不充足,須在多個波長段進行更多的觀測才能下結論。[77]

能量和射束编辑

 
Artist's illustration of a bright gamma-ray burst occurring in a star-forming region. Energy from the explosion is beamed into two narrow, oppositely directed jets.

Gamma-ray bursts are very bright as observed from Earth despite their typically immense distances. An average long GRB has a bolometric flux comparable to a bright star of our galaxy despite a distance of billions of light years (compared to a few tens of light years for most visible stars). Most of this energy is released in gamma rays, although some GRBs have extremely luminous optical counterparts as well. GRB 080319B, for example, was accompanied by an optical counterpart that peaked at a visible magnitude of 5.8,[78] comparable to that of the dimmest naked-eye stars despite the burst's distance of 7.5 billion light years. This combination of brightness and distance implies an extremely energetic source. Assuming the gamma-ray explosion to be spherical, the energy output of GRB 080319B would be within a factor of two of the rest-mass energy of the Sun (the energy which would be released were the Sun to be converted entirely into radiation).[43]

Gamma-ray bursts are thought to be highly focused explosions, with most of the explosion energy collimated into a narrow jet.[79][80] The approximate angular width of the jet (that is, the degree of spread of the beam) can be estimated directly by observing the achromatic "jet breaks" in afterglow light curves: a time after which the slowly decaying afterglow begins to fade rapidly as the jet slows and can no longer beam its radiation as effectively.[81][82] Observations suggest significant variation in the jet angle from between 2 and 20 degrees.[83]

Because their energy is strongly focused, the gamma rays emitted by most bursts are expected to miss the Earth and never be detected. When a gamma-ray burst is pointed towards Earth, the focusing of its energy along a relatively narrow beam causes the burst to appear much brighter than it would have been were its energy emitted spherically. When this effect is taken into account, typical gamma-ray bursts are observed to have a true energy release of about 1044 J, or about 1/2000 of a Solar mass (M) energy equivalent[83] – which is still many times the mass-energy equivalent of the Earth (about 5.5 × 1041 J). This is comparable to the energy released in a bright type Ib/c supernova and within the range of theoretical models. Very bright supernovae have been observed to accompany several of the nearest GRBs.[37] Additional support for focusing of the output of GRBs has come from observations of strong asymmetries in the spectra of nearby type Ic supernova[84] and from radio observations taken long after bursts when their jets are no longer relativistic.[85]

Short (time duration) GRBs appear to come from a lower-redshift (i.e. less distant) population and are less luminous than long GRBs.[86] The degree of beaming in short bursts has not been accurately measured, but as a population they are likely less collimated than long GRBs[87] or possibly not collimated at all in some cases.[88]

Progenitors编辑

 
Hubble Space Telescope image of Wolf–Rayet star WR 124 and its surrounding nebula. Wolf–Rayet stars are candidates for being progenitors of long-duration GRBs.

Because of the immense distances of most gamma-ray burst sources from Earth, identification of the progenitors, the systems that produce these explosions, is challenging. The association of some long GRBs with supernovae and the fact that their host galaxies are rapidly star-forming offer very strong evidence that long gamma-ray bursts are associated with massive stars. The most widely accepted mechanism for the origin of long-duration GRBs is the collapsar model,[89] in which the core of an extremely massive, low-metallicity, rapidly rotating star collapses into a black hole in the final stages of its evolution. Matter near the star's core rains down towards the center and swirls into a high-density accretion disk. The infall of this material into a black hole drives a pair of relativistic jets out along the rotational axis, which pummel through the stellar envelope and eventually break through the stellar surface and radiate as gamma rays. Some alternative models replace the black hole with a newly formed magnetar,[90][91] although most other aspects of the model (the collapse of the core of a massive star and the formation of relativistic jets) are the same.

The closest analogs within the Milky Way galaxy of the stars producing long gamma-ray bursts are likely the Wolf–Rayet stars, extremely hot and massive stars, which have shed most or all of their hydrogen envelope. Eta Carinae, Apep, and WR 104 have been cited as possible future gamma-ray burst progenitors.[92] It is unclear if any star in the Milky Way has the appropriate characteristics to produce a gamma-ray burst.[93]

The massive-star model probably does not explain all types of gamma-ray burst. There is strong evidence that some short-duration gamma-ray bursts occur in systems with no star formation and no massive stars, such as elliptical galaxies and galaxy halos.[86] The favored theory for the origin of most short gamma-ray bursts is the merger of a binary system consisting of two neutron stars. According to this model, the two stars in a binary slowly spiral towards each other because gravitational radiation releases energy[94][95] until tidal forces suddenly rip the neutron stars apart and they collapse into a single black hole. The infall of matter into the new black hole produces an accretion disk and releases a burst of energy, analogous to the collapsar model. Numerous other models have also been proposed to explain short gamma-ray bursts, including the merger of a neutron star and a black hole, the accretion-induced collapse of a neutron star, or the evaporation of primordial black holes.[96][97][98][99]

An alternative explanation proposed by Friedwardt Winterberg is that in the course of a gravitational collapse and in reaching the event horizon of a black hole, all matter disintegrates into a burst of gamma radiation.[100]

Tidal disruption events编辑

This new class of GRB-like events was first discovered through the detection of GRB 110328A by the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Mission on 28 March 2011. This event had a gamma-ray duration of about 2 days, much longer than even ultra-long GRBs, and was detected in X-rays for many months. It occurred at the center of a small elliptical galaxy at redshift z = 0.3534. There is an ongoing debate as to whether the explosion was the result of stellar collapse or a tidal disruption event accompanied by a relativistic jet, although the latter explanation has become widely favoured.[誰說的?]

A tidal disruption event of this sort is when a star interacts with a supermassive black hole, shredding the star, and in some cases creating a relativistic jet which produces bright emission of gamma ray radiation. The event GRB 110328A (also denoted Swift J1644+57) was initially argued to be produced by the disruption of a main sequence star by a black hole of several million times the mass of the Sun,[101][102][103] although it has subsequently been argued that the disruption of a white dwarf by a black hole of mass about 10 thousand times the Sun may be more likely.[104]

Emission mechanisms编辑

 
Gamma-ray-burst Mechanism

The means by which gamma-ray bursts convert energy into radiation remains poorly understood, and as of 2010 there was still no generally accepted model for how this process occurs.[105] Any successful model of GRB emission must explain the physical process for generating gamma-ray emission that matches the observed diversity of light curves, spectra, and other characteristics.[106] Particularly challenging is the need to explain the very high efficiencies that are inferred from some explosions: some gamma-ray bursts may convert as much as half (or more) of the explosion energy into gamma-rays.[107] Early observations of the bright optical counterparts to GRB 990123 and to GRB 080319B, whose optical light curves were extrapolations of the gamma-ray light spectra,[78][108] have suggested that inverse Compton may be the dominant process in some events. In this model, pre-existing low-energy photons are scattered by relativistic electrons within the explosion, augmenting their energy by a large factor and transforming them into gamma-rays.[109]

The nature of the longer-wavelength afterglow emission (ranging from X-ray through radio) that follows gamma-ray bursts is better understood. Any energy released by the explosion not radiated away in the burst itself takes the form of matter or energy moving outward at nearly the speed of light. As this matter collides with the surrounding interstellar gas, it creates a relativistic shock wave that then propagates forward into interstellar space. A second shock wave, the reverse shock, may propagate back into the ejected matter. Extremely energetic electrons within the shock wave are accelerated by strong local magnetic fields and radiate as synchrotron emission across most of the electromagnetic spectrum.[110][111] This model has generally been successful in modeling the behavior of many observed afterglows at late times (generally, hours to days after the explosion), although there are difficulties explaining all features of the afterglow very shortly after the gamma-ray burst has occurred.[112]

Rate of occurrence and potential effects on life编辑

 
On 27 October 2015, at 22:40 GMT, the NASA/ASI/UKSA Swift satellite discovered its 1000th gamma-ray burst (GRB).[113]

Gamma ray bursts can have harmful or destructive effects on life. Considering the universe as a whole, the safest environments for life similar to that on Earth are the lowest density regions in the outskirts of large galaxies. Our knowledge of galaxy types and their distribution suggests that life as we know it can only exist in about 10% of all galaxies. Furthermore, galaxies with a redshift, z, higher than 0.5 are unsuitable for life as we know it, because of their higher rate of GRBs and their stellar compactness.[114][115]

All GRBs observed to date have occurred well outside the Milky Way galaxy and have been harmless to Earth. However, if a GRB were to occur within the Milky Way within 5,000 to 8,000 light-years[116] and its emission were beamed straight towards Earth, the effects could be harmful and potentially devastating for its ecosystems. Currently, orbiting satellites detect on average approximately one GRB per day. The closest observed GRB as of March 2014 was GRB 980425, located 40百萬秒差距(130,000,000光年)[117] away (z=0.0085) in an SBc-type dwarf galaxy.[118] GRB 980425 was far less energetic than the average GRB and was associated with the Type Ib supernova SN 1998bw.[119]

Estimating the exact rate at which GRBs occur is difficult; for a galaxy of approximately the same size as the Milky Way, estimates of the expected rate (for long-duration GRBs) can range from one burst every 10,000 years, to one burst every 1,000,000 years.[120] Only a small percentage of these would be beamed towards Earth. Estimates of rate of occurrence of short-duration GRBs are even more uncertain because of the unknown degree of collimation, but are probably comparable.[121]

Since GRBs are thought to involve beamed emission along two jets in opposing directions, only planets in the path of these jets would be subjected to the high energy gamma radiation.[122]

Although nearby GRBs hitting Earth with a destructive shower of gamma rays are only hypothetical events, high energy processes across the galaxy have been observed to affect the Earth's atmosphere.[123]

Effects on Earth编辑

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. The immediate effect on life on Earth from a GRB within a few kiloparsecs would only be a short increase in ultraviolet radiation at ground level, lasting from less than a second to tens of seconds. This ultraviolet radiation could potentially reach dangerous levels depending on the exact nature and distance of the burst, but it seems unlikely to be able to cause a global catastrophe for life on Earth.[124][125]

The long-term effects from a nearby burst are more dangerous. Gamma rays cause chemical reactions in the atmosphere involving oxygen and nitrogen molecules, creating first nitrogen oxide then nitrogen dioxide gas. The nitrogen oxides cause dangerous effects on three levels. First, they deplete ozone, with models showing a possible global reduction of 25–35%, with as much as 75% in certain locations, an effect that would last for years. This reduction is enough to cause a dangerously elevated UV index at the surface. Secondly, the nitrogen oxides cause photochemical smog, which darkens the sky and blocks out parts of the sunlight spectrum. This would affect photosynthesis, but models show only about a 1% reduction of the total sunlight spectrum, lasting a few years. However, the smog could potentially cause a cooling effect on Earth's climate, producing a "cosmic winter" (similar to an impact winter, but without an impact), but only if it occurs simultaneously with a global climate instability. Thirdly, the elevated nitrogen dioxide levels in the atmosphere would wash out and produce acid rain. Nitric acid is toxic to a variety of organisms, including amphibian life, but models predict that it would not reach levels that would cause a serious global effect. The nitrates might in fact be of benefit to some plants.[124][125]

All in all, a GRB within a few kiloparsecs, with its energy directed towards Earth, will mostly damage life by raising the UV levels during the burst itself and for a few years thereafter. Models show that the destructive effects of this increase can cause up to 16 times the normal levels of DNA damage. It has proved difficult to assess a reliable evaluation of the consequences of this on the terrestrial ecosystem, because of the uncertainty in biological field and laboratory data.[124][125]

Hypothetical effects on Earth in the past编辑

GRBs close enough to affect life in some way might occur once every five million years or so – around a thousand times since life on Earth began.[126]

The major Ordovician–Silurian extinction events 450 million years ago may have been caused by a GRB. The late Ordovician species of trilobites that spent portions of their lives in the plankton layer near the ocean surface were much harder hit than deep-water dwellers, which tended to remain within quite restricted areas. This is in contrast to the usual pattern of extinction events, wherein species with more widely spread populations typically fare better. A possible explanation is that trilobites remaining in deep water would be more shielded from the increased UV radiation associated with a GRB. Also supportive of this hypothesis is the fact that during the late Ordovician, burrowing bivalve species were less likely to go extinct than bivalves that lived on the surface.[9]

A case has been made that the 774–775 carbon-14 spike was the result of a short GRB,[127][128] though a very strong solar flare is another possibility.[129]

GRB candidates in the Milky Way编辑

 
Illustration of a short gamma-ray burst caused by a collapsing star.[130]

No gamma-ray bursts from within our own galaxy, the Milky Way, have been observed,[131] and the question of whether one has ever occurred remains unresolved. In light of evolving understanding of gamma-ray bursts and their progenitors, the scientific literature records a growing number of local, past, and future GRB candidates. Long duration GRBs are related to superluminous supernovae, or hypernovae, and most luminous blue variables (LBVs) and rapidly spinning Wolf–Rayet stars are thought to end their life cycles in core-collapse supernovae with an associated long-duration GRB. Knowledge of GRBs, however, is from metal-poor galaxies of former epochs of the universe's evolution, and it is impossible to directly extrapolate to encompass more evolved galaxies and stellar environments with a higher metallicity, such as the Milky Way.[132][133][134]

See also编辑

Notes编辑

  1. ^ 例外的是1979年3月5日爆發的GRB 790305b英语GRB 790305b。此次光度極高的閃光過後,天文學家成功地追尋到它的來源——大麥哲倫星系內的超新星遺骸N49。今天科學家認為此次事件是一次磁星大型耀發英语Gamma-ray burst progenitors,其實更像軟γ射線重複爆發源,而不是「真正」的伽瑪射線暴。
  2. ^ 伽瑪射線暴的命名方式如下:GRB是伽瑪射線暴的縮寫,其後是各兩位數的年、月、日,再接著是以字母代表當天發現的伽瑪射線暴順序,A為當天首個,B為當天第二個,如此類推。2010年之前發生的伽瑪射線暴只有在當天探測到多於一次爆發事件時,才會附上字母順序。
  3. ^ 爆發時長一般以T90定義,即爆發源釋放能量總值的90%所需的時間。天文學家發現,有些原以為是短爆發的伽瑪射線暴,其發生後還會出現一次更長的爆發。如果把後者納入到光變曲線之內,所得的T90值就會延長至幾分鐘。

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