TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Astronomers have identified the largest cosmic explosion ever observed, a fireball 100 times the size of our Solar System that suddenly began blazing in the distant universe more than three years ago.
While the astronomers offered on Friday what they think is the most likely explanation for the explosion, they emphasized that more research was needed to understand the puzzling phenomenon.
The explosion, known as AT2021lwx, has currently lasted more than three years, compared with most supernovae which are only visibly bright for a few months, according to a study published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Led by the University of Southampton, the astronomers believe the explosion is a result of a vast cloud of gas, possibly thousands of times larger than our sun, that has been violently disrupted by a supermassive black hole.
According to the study, the explosion took place nearly 8 billion light years away, when the universe was about 6 billion years old and is still being detected by a network of telescopes.
Such events are very rare and nothing on this scale has been witnessed before, the researchers say.
Last year, astronomers witnessed the brightest explosion on record – a gamma-ray burst known as GRB 221009A, which was nicknamed BOAT – for Brightest Of All Time, Al Jazeera reported.
Although BOAT was brighter than AT2021lwx, it lasted for just a fraction of the time, meaning the overall energy released by the AT2021lwx explosion was far greater.
AT2021lwx has earned the nickname “Scary Barbie” from researchers owing to its “terrifying energy”.