College of Charleston Astrophycist Discovers Rays that can Bend Time

Astrophysicist and Associate Dean of the Graduate School at the College of Charleston, Jon Hakkila, found that gamma rays might bend time backwards, although perhaps not in our mundane understanding.

In an article published in the Astrophysical Journal on Aug. 13, Hakkila states that the gamma ray bursts caused by the collapse of a star are time reversed. The end of the pulse emits the beginning of the pulse but in reverse order. In other words, the pattern of the rays looked like they were reflected in a mirror.

According to NASA, gamma-ray bursts are “short-lived bursts of gamma-ray light, the most energetic form of light.” Gamma Ray bursts are classified by their duration. Both types influence the creation of black holes, though they are the result of different processes.

Hakkila and four other researchers analyzed the pulses of four gamma-ray bursts using data from the Burst and Transient Source Experiment (BATSE), a high energy astrophysics experiment at NASA’s Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory. The pulses demonstrated time reversed pulses. Hakkila notes how the pulses are only exhibited by the brightest gamma-ray burst pulse light curves, and “do not necessarily violate natural laws of cause and effect.”

The study’s findings help us understand black holes, and may provide clues to the origins of the universe. The study attracted international attention with reporting reaching the United Kingdom, Greece, and Russia. Hakkila was in Vienna, Austria this past week to present the findings to the International Astronomy Union.

Hakkila studied gamma rays with great success.  In 2013, he was part of a team that discovered the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall, a group of clusters of galaxies that is the largest thing known to exist.



The Post and Courier


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Sarah Shtessel is a junior double majoring in Political Science and Economics and works as a staff writer for CisternYard Media. Originally from Columbia, South Carolina, she uses her free time to read, spend time with friends, and going to art galleries in Charleston.

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