Astronomers have recorded the most powerful burst of energy in the universe since the Big Bang. Some experts compare the discovery in importance with the discovery of the first bones of dinosaurs.
Scientists write in The Astrophysical Journal that the explosion occurred at a supermassive black hole in the center of the galaxy, 390 million light-years distant from Earth and located in the Ophiuchus cluster. The energy surge was so strong that it struck a giant gap in the plasma surrounding the cluster. Fifteen Milky Way galaxies could fit in this cavity.
Experts said that his energy was five times greater than that recorded in the previous record. At the same time, the explosion was not simultaneous, astrophysicists specify: it was more like a slow eruption / burning for hundreds of millions of years.
“In a way, this explosion is similar to how the eruption of St. Helens happened in 1980, when the top of the mountain was torn off,” said study leader Simone Jatsintucci of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington. “The key difference is that in the “crater” there could be placed 15 galaxies of the Milky Way.”
A team of scientists suggested that the event was caused by the active galactic nucleus (AGN), which goes through a high-energy phase. When the outbreak occurred, it broke through a hole of an unprecedented scale in the surrounding plasma. To create such a cavity, it took about 5 × 10 54 joules. For comparison: the total energy consumption of humanity is approximately 6 × 10 20 joules.
Scientists had previously observed a gap through x-ray telescopes, but then they rejected the idea that the phenomenon is explosive. This hypothesis was confirmed by observations using radio telescopes and other instruments that capture different wavelengths: the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the XMM-Newton ESA, the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) antenna array in Western Australia, and the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) in India.
“We have already seen flashes in the centers of galaxies, but this one is really monstrous. And we don’t know why it is like that,” one of the authors of the publication honestly admitted.
Researchers do not yet know the cause of such a strong explosion. More detailed observations will be made in the future using 4096 MWA antennas instead of 2048.