Last October, following one of the brightest flashes of gamma rays ever observed in the sky, telescopes around the world captured a wealth of data from an event that is thought to herald the collapse of a massive star and the birth of a black hole.
But that fire hose of data demonstrated clearly that our understanding of how stars collapse and generate enormous jets of outflowing material accompanied by powerful blasts of X-rays and gamma rays — and likely lots of heavy elements — is woefully inadequate.
“The data are so good that, basically, the models failed — failed deeply,” said Raffaella Margutti, associate professor of astronomy and of physics at the University of California, Berkeley. “That makes sense because the models are not very complicated. Nature is saying, ‘Well, what you’re seeing is probably an outflow that has way more components than what you think it is.'”