February 26, 2024

Astronomers stumble upon largest explosion in the universe thus far

The only things in the universe as intense as AT2021lwx are quasars, supermassive black holes with a constant flow of gas falling onto them at high speed.

It has currently lasted over three years, whereas the majority of supernovae are only noticeable for a couple of months. When the universe was just around six billion years old, this bang took place nearly 8 billion light-years away and took place. A network of telescopes is still identifying it.

With a quasar, the brightness flickers up and down over time. Recalling over a years, there was no detection of AT2021lwx. Then suddenly it just appeared with the extraordinary radiance of the brightest thing in the universe.

Last year, astronomers witnessed the brightest explosion on record– a gamma-ray burst referred to as GRB 221009A. While this was brighter than AT2021lwx, it lasted for simply a fraction of the time, implying the general energy released by the AT2021lwx surge is far greater.

Scientists believe a supermassive black hole is to blame for the explosion, which they attribute to the violent disruption of a gas cloud countless times larger than our sun. Pieces of the cloud would fall under the great void, sending out shockwaves through what was left of the cloud and out into the large dirty “doughnut” that surrounded the great void. It was incredibly unusual, and never ever before seen on this scale.

Artists recreation of a black hole accretion. (Credit: John A. Paice).

The discovery was made by opportunity. A search algorithm flagged it while the group was trying to find a type of supernova. The majority of supernovae and tidal disturbance occasions just last for a couple of months before fading away, making the extended brightness of AT2021lwx right away unusual.

There are different theories about what might have caused such a surge. Still, the Southampton-led group believes the most possible explanation is an incredibly big cloud of gas or dust that has come off course from its orbit around the black hole and been sent flying in.

AT2021lwx was at first identified in 2020 by the Zwicky Transient Facility in California, and then by the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System in Hawaii. These facilities survey the night sky to find comets and asteroids along with transient items whose brightness fluctuates quickly, suggesting cosmic occasions such as supernovae. The magnitude of the explosion was formerly unidentified.

With brand-new centers, like the Vera Rubin Observatorys Legacy Survey of Space and Time, coming online in the next few years, the team intends to discover more occasions like this and discover more about them. It might be that these events, although extremely unusual, are so energetic that they are essential processes to how the centers of galaxies change over time.

The surge, known as AT2021lwx, is over 10 times brighter than any known supernova and three times brighter than the brightest tidal disturbance event.

An unexpected discovery.

Numerous telescopes were used to examine the object even more: the Neil Gehrels Swift Telescope (a collaboration in between NASA, the United Kingdom and Italy), the New Technology Telescope (operated by the European Southern Observatory) in Chile, and the Gran Telescopio Canarias on La Palma, Spain.

The research study was released in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

University of Southampton astronomers have witnessed the largest cosmic explosion ever found.

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With a quasar, the brightness flickers up and down over time.

Researchers think a supermassive black hole is to blame for the surge, which they associate to the violent disruption of a gas cloud thousands of times larger than our sun. Pieces of the cloud would fall into the black hole, sending shockwaves through what was left of the cloud and out into the large dirty “doughnut” that encircled the black hole. AT2021lwx was initially detected in 2020 by the Zwicky Transient Facility in California, and then by the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System in Hawaii. The majority of supernovae and tidal interruption events just last for a couple of months before fading away, making the extended brightness of AT2021lwx immediately unusual.