Astronomers are intrigued by the ‘biggest’ cosmic explosion on record

(Paris) Astronomers announced Friday the discovery of a “colossal” cosmic explosion, a ball of energy a hundred times the size of our solar system that suddenly ignited three years ago.

Scientists have a new explanation to explain the cause of this phenomenon, but they emphasize the imperative of continued research to clarify the matter.

The AT2021lwx listed event is not the brightest in the log. That distinction goes to the gamma-ray burst (an enormous burst of energy in the collapse of a star) GRB221009A, detected in October 2022 and considered the “brightest of all time.”

But the explosion is described in criticism Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society According to the study’s lead author Philip Wiseman, an astrophysicist at the University of Southampton in Britain, it can be described as “enormous” because it released infinitely more energy than a gamma-ray burst in three years.

AT2021lwx was the result of an “accidental discovery,” he told AFP.

The eruption was automatically detected in 2020 by the US observatory Swicky Transient Facility in California. But according to Wiseman, the detection was sent unused to the lab’s database. Before scientists notice it next year.

Direct observation of the event changed the game. Analysis of the light has established that it took eight billion years to reach the telescope.

“A Real Enigma”

Astronomers are still puzzled about the cause of this phenomenon. It could be a supernova, the explosion of a massive star at the end of its life, but the luminosity here is ten times higher than expected.

Another possibility is a tidal breakup event, in which a star is torn apart by the attractive forces of its closest black hole. But again, the AT2021lwx is three times more likely to check such a scenario.

None of the measured brightness is known except for quasars, these galaxies harbor a supermassive black hole at their heart that pulls itself together with matter, emitting an amazing amount of light.

But the light from the quasars has been flickering, whereas it suddenly increased three years ago. “We never observed such a thing […]. It seemed to come from nowhere,” notes the scientist.

His team has an idea, set in the study. His theory is that a giant cloud of gas, the size of 5,000 suns, is being swallowed by a supermassive black hole.

Since the principle of science is “there are never certainties,” the team conducted new simulations — using data — to test the “uncertainty plausibility” of their theory.

The problem is that galaxies must have supermassive black holes at their cores. And the size of the AT2021lwx event should be about the same as our Milky Way.

However, no one has yet detected a galaxy close to the observed event. “It’s a real conundrum,” says Philip Wiseman.

It’s there to search the sky, and databases of sky observatories, for similar events that help raise the curtain on the eruption.

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