No announcement yet.

Biggest Known Explosion in the History of the Universe

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Biggest Known Explosion in the History of the Universe


    Just the Biggest Known Explosion in the History of the Universe

    Jennifer Leman
    Popular MechanicsFebruary 28, 2020, 10:49 AM EST
    Photo credit: XMM/GMRT/2MASS
    From Popular Mechanics
    • Astronomers have reported in The Astrophysical Journal that they've spotted the most powerful explosion in the known universe.
    • The team collected a mix of X-ray and radio wave data from NASA's Chandra space telescope, ESA's XMM-Newton space telescope, and Earth-bound telescopes in India and Australia.
    • Astronomers first observed evidence of the explosion, which is emanating from a supermassive black hole, in 2016, but were only able to confirm its occurrence recently.

    Astronomers have spotted the remains of a ginormous eruption of gas, stellar material, and high-energy particles emanating from the center of distant galaxy cluster. It may be the biggest bang ever witnessed.

    The team, led by Simona Giacintucci of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington D.C., claims to have discovered the most powerful explosion ever recorded in the universe. The bright burst of energy was discovered in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster, approximately 390 million light-years away from Earth.

    In some cases, supermassive black holes spit out as much energy and material—if not more—than they slurp up, forming massive jets that stretch out into space. "In some ways, this blast is similar to how the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980 ripped off the top of the mountain," Giacintucci said in a statement. "A key difference is that you could fit fifteen Milky Way galaxies in a row into the crater this eruption punched into the cluster's hot gas."

    Cluster galaxies are incredibly active pockets of outer space. As the largest objects in the universe, they're a tangled network of galaxies and star systems held together by a web of dark matter and gas.

    The team made the observations using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and XMM-Newton, an ESA X-ray telescope in Earth’s orbit. The scientists also used radio data from the Murchison Widefield Array in Australia and the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope in India. They published the results of their work February 27 in the Astrophysical Journal. (Here’s a preprint of the paper.)

    The previous record holder for largest explosion in the universe was the galaxy cluster MS 0735.6+7421, which astronomers discovered in the Camelopardalis constellation in 2003. In the case of MS 0735.6+7421, the supermassive black hole at the center of the cluster’s main galaxy produced an eruption so powerful that it created two vast cavities in the cluster. This latest eruption is five times more powerful than MS 0735.6+7421.
    Photo credit: NASA/CXC/Ohio U./B.McNamara
    Astronomers don't believe that the jets emanating from the supermassive black hole are still active. They require massive amounts of material and energy to form, and the force of the cosmic explosion could have propelled gas and other material out of the black hole's range, leaving it unable to vacuum up nearby starstuff.

    Confirming the existence of this explosion has been a long time coming. Four years ago, a team led by Norbert Werner of Stanford University detected signs of the massive explosion, but they didn’t think the black hole could generate the amount of energy necessary to create such a powerful blast. It was only until recently—thanks to the additional radio data—that the burst of energy was confirmed.

    Astronomers often gather observations across a wide range of wavelengths in order to get a clearer picture of what’s happening out in the distant cosmos. "The radio data fit inside the X-rays like a hand in a glove," astrophysicist Maxim Markevitch of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said in the statement. "This is the clincher that tells us an eruption of unprecedented size occurred here."