Gamma ray bursts, or GRBs, are some of the most intense displays of energy in the Universe. The origin of the mysterious short-duration gamma-ray bursts have eluded astronomers for decades, but a recent observation of a "kilonova" by astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope has finally nailed down the culprit.
PHOTOS: Cosmic Hotshots from Keck Observatory
GRBs were first discovered by accident by satellites used in the 1960s to enforce nuclear test ban treaties. When bright flashes of gamma rays were determined to be coming from space and not from Earth, we had a new scientific phenomenon to explore, instead of nuclear war (thankfully). GRBs were later separated into two broad categories: short and long bursts. We now know that long-duration GRBs signal the death of very massive stars in a "hypernova" but their few-second long short duration cousins have remained mysterious.
It has been suggested that short GRBs arise when two compact objects, such as a neutron star or black hole, collide, releasing an incredible amount of energy. This is because short GRBs have been located in galaxies with older populations of stars, likely to have neutron stars and black holes as the remnants of stellar evolution, but not likely to have massive stars.