Nasa James Webb Telescopesource: NASA Webb Twitter

Summary of this Post

Scientists, using telescopes including NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, observed a bright gamma-ray burst, GRB 230307A, and identified the neutron star merger behind it. Tellurium, a rare element, was detected in the aftermath, shedding light on the origin of heavy elements in the universe. The James Webb Space Telescope’s capabilities were crucial for this discovery, providing insights into the merging of neutron stars’ cosmic journey. This breakthrough suggests future observations may reveal more kilonovas, advancing our cosmic understanding.


A team of scientists, utilizing a combination of space and ground-based telescopes, including NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, has observed a remarkably bright gamma-ray burst, known as GRB 230307A, and identified the neutron star merger responsible for this explosive event. The study also revealed the presence of the chemical element tellurium in the aftermath of the explosion, potentially indicating the presence of other rare elements near it on the periodic table.

This neutron star merger, which gives rise to a phenomenon called a kilonova, has long been theorized as a source of heavier elements beyond iron. However, observing such events has been challenging due to their rarity. The case of GRB 230307A is particularly noteworthy because it is exceptionally bright and lasts longer than typical gamma-ray bursts. Despite its characteristics resembling a long-duration gamma-ray burst, it is believed to have originated from a merging neutron star.

Nasa James Webb Telescope
source: NASA Webb Twitter

The collaboration of various telescopes allowed scientists to gather a wealth of information about this event promptly, demonstrating the synergy between space and ground-based observatories. The gamma-ray, X-ray, optical, infrared, and radio observations collectively indicated that the event exhibited the characteristics of a kilonova, with the infrared data becoming particularly valuable for studying the phenomenon.

The James Webb Space Telescope’s sensitive infrared capabilities played a pivotal role in identifying tellurium and elucidating the dynamics of the explosion. This groundbreaking observation pinpointed the location of the two merging neutron stars in a distant spiral galaxy, shedding light on their cosmic journey.

The study suggests that with increasing opportunities for space and ground-based telescopes to collaborate, more kilonovas are likely to be discovered, enhancing our understanding of the universe and potentially unveiling even heavier elements. The upcoming Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope is expected to contribute significantly to this endeavour, broadening our knowledge of these cosmic events.

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