Astronomers identify largest cosmic explosion ever observed

Photo Courtesy Bangkok Post

A colossal cosmic explosion, now identified as the largest ever witnessed, has left astronomers puzzled and eager to conduct further research. The fireball, known as AT2021lwx, is a hundred times the size of our Solar System and initially started blazing in the distant universe over three years ago.

Although not the brightest explosion ever registered, AT2021lwx is considered the largest due to the release of far more energy over the past three years compared to other events such as the recently recorded gamma-ray burst, known as BOAT. Philip Wiseman, an astrophysicist at the University of Southampton and the lead author of a new study on this subject stated that the discovery of AT2021lwx was accidental.

The explosion was first spotted by the Zwicky Transient Facility in California during an automated sky sweep in 2020, however, it remained unnoticed until the following year. It was only when astronomers viewed it through more powerful telescopes that they recognized the astonishing scale of the event. Through the analysis of different wavelengths of light, they determined that the explosion occurred approximately eight billion light years away.

This distance far exceeds most commonly observed cosmic events, pointing to the size of the explosion being significantly larger. Wiseman estimates AT2021lwx to be around two trillion times brighter than the Sun. Although several explanations have been considered, including an exploding star or a tidal disruption event, no definitive conclusions have been reached.

One theory is that a massive cloud of gas, roughly 5,000 times larger than the Sun, is being consumed by a supermassive black hole. Despite this explanation being the most likely, Wiseman stresses the need for additional research and simulations to confirm its plausibility.

An intriguing aspect of this event is the absence of any detectable galaxy in the vicinity of AT2021lwx. Given the scale of the explosion, astronomers would expect to find a galaxy nearby. This missing galaxy remains a puzzle and is driving experts to continue examining the skies for any previously overlooked similar occurrences.

The findings have contributed significant insight into this mysterious cosmic explosion and have been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The international team of researchers is eagerly working on delving further into this fascinating phenomenon, hoping to gain a better understanding of the cosmos reports Bangkok Post.

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With a Bachelor's Degree in English, Jenn has plenty of experience writing and editing on different topics. After spending many years teaching English in Thailand, Jenn has come to love writing about Thai culture and the experience of being an ex-pat in Thailand. During long holidays, she travels to North of Thailand just to have Khao Soi!

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