Dr. Mark Kennedy - A Significant Discovery

26 Oct 2023

The Irish Independent reports: Dr Mark Kennedy of University College Cork’s School of Physics has co-authored a paper published in Nature today outlining the findings from one of the most powerful explosions ever witnessed.

A gamma-ray burst known as GRB 230307A caused a vast explosion more than a million times brighter than our entire Milky Way galaxy which rippled across the universe. Dr. Kennedy observed it from earth using a European Southern Observatory’s New Technology Telescope based in Chile but accessed remotely from in his own home in Cork. 

In the aftermath, heavy elements including an important chemical element, tellurium were spotted. As this is a vital material that sustains life on earth, the discovery allows for further research on the earth's formation.  

The data Dr. Kennedy gathered led to the discovery of the optical counterpart to the kilonova (gamma-ray burst) and has stated that for a long time such heavy elements were thought to be produced in supernovae, which are the explosions that massive stars undergo at the end of their lives. However, the supernovae never produced elements such as the ones now found within the kilonova cosmic discovery. 

The discovery was a combination effort from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and scientists like Dr. Kennedy pointing their telescopes at where they thought the explosion might occur. “This explosion occurred in the very southern part of the night sky, making it impossible to observe with most of our ground-based facilities.” Dr. Kennedy found a new object had appeared in the night sky right where the burst had come from several hours after the explosion reached the earth. The footage was observed in the following weeks after and the group of scientists including Dr. Kennedy submitted proposals to use James Webb Space Telescope to study the event for the first time and the results spoke for themselves!


Related Articles: 
-Cork astronomer helps spot kilonova cosmic event (
Waterford astronomer contributes to major scientific discovery |
-Massive space explosion observed creating elements needed for life – The Irish Times


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