Astronomers see the biggest cosmic explosion of all time
About the episode
Ten times brighter than a supernova and three times brighter than a star falling into a supermassive black hole, this is the gigantic explosion observed by astronomers in 2020 and which they have just announced.
Most supernovae (i.e. when a star explodes) are not visible for a very long time, usually a few months. Named AT2021lwx, this explosion has now lasted for three years and is currently seen through an array of telescopes. It took place 8 billion light-years from Earth, when the universe was about 6 billion years old.
According to the researchers, the cause of this enormous spectacle is probably a violent confrontation between a cloud of gas a thousand times larger than our sun and a supermassive black hole. As parts of the gas cloud are engulfed, powerful shock waves shoot through what’s left of the cloud and the dusty ring around the black hole.
Events like this are extremely rare and nothing as intense as this has ever been detected. It beats a discovery made last year. Next, astronomers saw a gamma-ray burst which, although brighter, lasted only a fraction of the time of that explosion. And so it released much less energy and that counts as the biggest cosmic explosion ever seen.
Read more about the discovery here: Astronomers reveal the biggest cosmic explosion ever seen.
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