What is hundreds of billions of times more powerful than the Sun, flashes on repeat with intense bursts of light, and verges on defying the laws of physics? No, it’s not your neighbors’ holiday lights glitching again. It’s an LFBOT in the depths of space.
LFBOTs (Luminous Fast Blue Optical Transients) are already quite bizarre. They erupt with blue light, radio, X-ray, and optical emissions, making them some of the brightest explosions ever seen in space, as luminous as supernovae. It is no exaggeration that they give off more energy than hundreds of billions of stars like our own. They also tend to live fast, blazing for only minutes before they burn themselves out and fade into darkness.
LFBOTs are quite rare, and in many cases their sources are unidentified. But we’ve never seen anything with the intensity of an LFBOT named AT2022tsd—aka the “Tasmanian Devil.” Its strange behavior was caught by 15 telescopes and observatories, including the W.M. Keck Observatory and NASA’s Chandra Space Telescope. Like other phenomena of its kind, it initially emitted incredible amounts of energy and then dimmed. Unlike any other LFBOT observed before, however, this one seemed to come back from the dead. It flared again—and again and again.
Nature, 2023. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-023-06673-6