Largest cosmic explosion ever observed by astronomers | Science and technology news


Astronomers have discovered the largest cosmic explosion ever observed – and it lasted more than three years.

The explosion, labeled AT2021lwx, is thought to be the result of a huge cloud of gas – thousands of times larger than the Sun – being ejected into a black hole after de-orbiting.

Fragments of the cloud would have been swallowed up, forming a large dusty “donut” around the black hole.

Astronomers said such events are rare, but nothing of this magnitude had ever been observed before.

dr Philip Wiseman, a research associate at the University of Southampton who led the research, said: “We happened upon this because it was detected by our search algorithm when we were looking for some kind of supernova.”

“Most supernovae and tidal disturbances only last a few months before disappearing. It was immediately very unusual that there was light for a little over two years.”

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According to the study, the actual explosion occurred nearly eight billion light-years away, when the Universe was about six billion years old, and is still being spotted by a network of telescopes.

AT2021lwx was first discovered in 2020 by the Zwicky Transient Facility in California and was subsequently captured by the Hawaii-based Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System (ATLAS).

However, the extent of the explosion was not yet known.

Last year, astronomers witnessed the brightest explosion ever – a gamma-ray burst dubbed GRB 221009A.

Although brighter than AT2021lwx, it only lasted a fraction of the time, meaning the total energy released by the AT2021lwx explosion was far greater.

dr Wiseman added that these events could hold the key to understanding how the centers of galaxies change over time.

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