Bright and really heavy: What “The Cow” caused in deep space.

Science News shares an explanation for an intense puzzle that’s had astronomers searching for solutions since June 2018. Now, astrophysicist DJ Pasham and his team believe “The Cow” – a burst of light much brighter than a supernova – might have created a neutron star, or even a black hole:

The burst’s official, random designation is AT2018cow, but astronomers affectionately dubbed it the Cow. The light originated about 200 million light-years away and was 10 times as bright as an ordinary supernova, the explosion that marks the death of a massive star.

…Pasham and colleagues checked the Cow for flickering X-rays, which are typically produced close to a compact object, possibly in a disk of hot material around a black hole or on the surface of a neutron star.

Flickers in these X-rays can reveal the size of their source. The Cow’s X-rays flicker roughly every 4 milliseconds, meaning the object that produces them must be no more than 1,000 kilometers wide. Only a neutron star or a black hole fits the bill, Pasham and colleagues report December 13 in Nature Astronomy.

You can read their research here, in Nature Astronomy.