Photometric observations recently taken with the 3.6 metre Devasthal Optical Telescope have provided vital information on the earliest phase of a kilonova ever detected, radically changing the understanding of scientists about the origin of GRBs.


About ‘Gamma Ray Bursts’

  • GRBs are powerful astronomical cosmic bursts of high-energy gamma-ray.
  • GRB emits more energy in a few seconds than our Sun will emit in its lifetime and has two distinct emission phases —
    • the short-lived prompt emission (the initial burst phase that emits gamma-rays), followed by a long-lived multi-wavelength afterglow phase.
  • The prompt emission (initial gamma-ray emission) of GRBs are automatically discovered by space-based gamma-ray missions such as NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, and India’s AstroSat.


About Kilonova

  • In recent years, scientists have discovered a special phenomenon called a kilonova of visible and infrared light with short-period GRBs, also known as a potential source of gravitational waves.
  • It has been hypnotised that the heat produced by the radioactive decay of heavier elements may emit kilonova.
  • This process also produces heavier elements, such as gold and platinum.
  • However, observing kilonovas at near-infrared wavelengths is technically challenging, and only a few telescopes on Earth, including the 3.6-meter Devasthal Optical Telescope of the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES), can detect kilonova and gravitational wave objects at these wavelengths upto faint limits.


About the Devasthal Optical Telescope (DOT)

  • The telescope, installed at Devasthal, Nainital, Uttarakhand, has the distinction of being the largest telescope in India for study of celestial objects at optical wavelengths.
  • It was commissioned in the year 2016 and is being maintained and operated by ARIES.
  • It consists of a modern 3.6-meter optical new technology telescope and enjoys the longitudinal advantage which facilitated the viewing of the events like the present one.