What are Astronomical Transients?

In the field of astronomy, a 'transient' refers to any celestial object that exhibits rapid changes in brightness. These transients come in various forms, all linked by their inherently violent nature.

Notably, in May 2024, the Indian-American astronomer Shrinivas Kulkarni received the Shaw Prize for Astronomy in 2024 in recognition of his groundbreaking research on the physics of astronomical transients.

Among the most renowned transients are supernovae, events where the outer layers of massive stars explode while their cores collapse due to a lack of fusible elements. These supernovae often shine so brightly that they can outshine the combined light of all the stars in their host galaxies.

Another prominent transient is the active galactic nucleus (AGN), located at the centers of massive galaxies. Here, supermassive black holes consume orbiting matter, causing interactions that result in variable brightness as the matter gains energy and emits light.

In 2007, astronomers identified a new and enigmatic transient known as a fast radio burst (FRB). Despite their elusive nature, hundreds of FRBs have been discovered, each capable of releasing energy exceeding ten times that of the Sun within just a few milliseconds. The cause of these bursts remains unknown.