Astronomers detect biggest explosion in the history of the universe

Caption This extremely powerful eruption occurred in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster, which is located about 390 million light-years from Earth. Galaxy clusters are the largest structures in the Universe held together by gravity, containing thousands of individual galaxies, dark matter, and hot gas. Credit X-ray: NASA/CXC/Naval Research Lab/Giacintucci, S.; XMM:ESA/XMM; Radio: NCRA/TIFR/GMRTN; Infrared: 2MASS/UMass/IPAC-Caltech/NASA/NSF

This extremely powerful eruption occurred in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster, which is located about 390 million light-years from Earth. Galaxy clusters are the largest structures in the Universe held together by gravity, containing thousands of individual galaxies, dark matter, and hot gas. Credit X-ray: NASA/CXC/Naval Research Lab/Giacintucci, S.; XMM:ESA/XMM; Radio: NCRA/TIFR/GMRTN; Infrared: 2MASS/UMass/IPAC-Caltech/NASA/NSF

Scientists studying a distant galaxy cluster have discovered the biggest explosion seen in the Universe since the Big Bang.

The blast came from a supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy hundreds of millions of light-years away.

It released five times more energy than the previous record holder.

Professor Melanie Johnston-Hollitt, from the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, said the event was extraordinarily energetic.

“We’ve seen outbursts in the centres of galaxies before but this one is really, really massive,” she said.

“And we don’t know why it’s so big.

“But it happened very slowly–like an explosion in slow motion that took place over hundreds of millions of years.”

The explosion occurred in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster, about 390 million light-years from Earth.

It was so powerful it punched a cavity in the cluster plasma–the super-hot gas surrounding the black hole.

Lead author of the study Dr Simona Giacintucci, from the Naval Research Laboratory in the United States, said the blast was similar to the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, which ripped the top off the mountain.

“The difference is that you could fit 15 Milky Way galaxies in a row into the crater this eruption punched into the cluster’s hot gas,” she said.

Professor Johnston-Hollitt said the cavity in the cluster plasma had been seen previously with X-ray telescopes.

But scientists initially dismissed the idea that it could have been caused by an energetic outburst, because it would have been too big.

“People were sceptical because the size of outburst,” she said. “But it really is that. The Universe is a weird place.”

The researchers only realised what they had discovered when they looked at the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster with radio telescopes.

“The radio data fit inside the X-rays like a hand in a glove,” said co-author Dr Maxim Markevitch, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

“This is the clincher that tells us an eruption of unprecedented size occurred here.”

The discovery was made using four telescopes; NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, ESA’s XMM-Newton, the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) in Western Australia and the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) in India.

Professor Johnston-Hollitt, who is the director of the MWA and an expert in galaxy clusters, likened the finding to discovering the first dinosaur bones.

“It’s a bit like archaeology,” she said.

“We’ve been given the tools to dig deeper with low frequency radio telescopes so we should be able to find more outbursts like this now.”

The finding underscores the importance of studying the Universe at different wavelengths, Professor Johnston-Hollitt said.

“Going back and doing a multi-wavelength study has really made the difference here,” she said.

Professor Johnston-Hollitt said the finding is likely to be the first of many.

“We made this discovery with Phase 1 of the MWA, when the telescope had 2048 antennas pointed towards the sky,” she said.

“We’re soon going to be gathering observations with 4096 antennas, which should be ten times more sensitive.”

“I think that’s pretty exciting.”

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MORE INFORMATION

ICRAR

The International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) is a joint venture between Curtin University and The University of Western Australia with support and funding from the State Government of Western Australia.

THE MURCHISON WIDEFIELD ARRAY

The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) is a low-frequency radio telescope and is the first of four Square Kilometre Array (SKA) precursors to be completed. A consortium of partner institutions from seven countries (Australia, USA, India, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, and China) financed the development, construction, commissioning, and operations of the facility. The MWA consortium is led by Curtin University.

Publication:

‘Discovery of a giant radio fossil in the Ophiuchus Galaxy Cluster’, published in The Astrophysical Journal on February 27th, 2020.

Multimedia:

Available from http://www.icrar.org/kaboom

From EurekAlert!

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90 thoughts on “Astronomers detect biggest explosion in the history of the universe

      • Nope. While an explosion is a rapid increase in volume, increase in temperature and release of gases, only the volume box is checked in the Big Bang.

        While the “volume” of the universe expanded at the BB, its temperature decreased, and gases were far in the future, as it took a long time for the expanding universe to cool enough even for hydrogen to form.

        Rather than releasing energy, the BB expanded spacetime and converted energy to mass, ie matter. Normal chemical explosions release energy from reactions involving mass.

        • John can you have temperature without matter?

          Got any evidence that energy can become Matter?

          Where did the energy you speak of come from?

        • “John Tillman February 28, 2020 at 3:11 pm
          Nope. While an explosion is a rapid increase in volume, increase in temperature…”

          So when, scientists refer to the Precambrian explosion of species; that means increased temperatures and release of gases?

          Some explosions meet the definition you insist upon.
          Other explosive materials are true explosions; i.e. the explosion, exothermic breaking of chemical bonds, propagates at a subset speed somewhat less than the speed of light.

          Most chemical explosions are solely expanding gases; e.g. ammunition. Gunpowder, both blackpowder and smokeless cellulose nitrate work by containing the expanding gases until the projectile is ejected.
          The same goes for bombs and grenades.

          What these researchers describe is an immense rapid violent expansion coupled with a likely gamma ray burst.

          I have to wonder if the result they describe is from a quasar with polar axis tilt and precession, creating a much larger hole over time.

          “But it happened very slowly–like an explosion in slow motion that took place over hundreds of millions of years.”

        • Stark raving, anti-scientific lunacy.

          Please, gravity is a scientific fact, ie an observation of nature.

          “Electric universe” deniers of gravity are clinically insane.

          • No. in fact (sic!) gravity is not a ‘scientific fact’ . It is just another model – an explanation for how the world appears to behave that seems to allow accurate prediction of behaviour.

            Not sayng I agree with ‘electric universes’ tho.

          • No, Mr. Tillman, the hypothesis you apparently subscribe to is anti-science.

            Black hole: near infinite density in near infinite small space.

            That’s a word salad without any confirmation and without any observation & measurement.

            It’s theoretical physics with made-up mathematical relationships about made-up physical conditions.

            In other words, a priori assumptions from over a century ago.

            I suggest cutting off all government money to study such hypothetical nonsense.

      • “Just a theory” misunderstands the meaning of “theory” in scientific rather than common parlance.

        A scientific theory is an explanation of observed natural phenomena which has been repeatedly observed and confirmed, but never shown false. Usually it’s an assembly of hypotheses which likewise have always been confirmed.

        Real scientists await a falsification of the BBT. Until then, it’s the best we have. All observations of nature support it, and none contradict it.

        • We observed the infinitesimally small infinitely dense state before the big bang? Not sure about that. Here is my best theory;

          • The big bang is fact, but nothing before the big bang is. Cyclic cosmology, quantum mechanics, quantum loop, singularity, etc…. no one has a clue as there is no physics to show what happened before the expansion.

        • If all matter in the universe came from one point, ie the BB, then all matter and energy would radiate in all directions away from the origin point. Due to this, every piece of the universe would be getting farther apart as time move on. Scientists state that eventually the Andromeda galaxy is going to collide with our Milky Way galaxy, which itself disproves the BBT.

          Another thing, just like in nuclear fission when the nucleus gets too heavy to support itself and reaches critical mass and splits, what would happen if the same happened to a supermassive black hole, especially the largest in the universe? How much energy would be released from that “Big Bang”?

          • This is a misunderstanding of BBT. It is not an explosion of matter flying out through space away from a central point. It is an expansion of space itself. Hence, there is no center, no origin point in space. It is space which stretches and expands, while the matter in it remains relatively motionless. The motions of matter are due to gravitational effects of a slightly uneven original distribution clumping together and pulling apart. That is why some galaxies are slowly moving towards one another, forming clusters and even colliding.

      • Well, yes.
        However, we can see very close to it in our telescopes, what happened just a few million years after bb.
        The microwave background helps us to see how it was just 100000 years after bb.
        Closer to that we cannot see right now. It was too dense and opaque.

        • Says the pedant with nothing but minutiae to offer this site. Swath or swathe, expansion or explosion…

          You can insult us and call us names, but the problems with the Big Bang don’t go away just because you don’t like the alternative model.

      • From the theory, big bang occured 13.799 +/- 0.021 billion years.
        Star HD140283 was first over 16 billions years and after several more calculation, reducing step by step the age (due it should not be possible to be above Big Bang age), the final and lower age able to calculate for HD140283 is 14.46 billions years … Older than the big bang theory – (they was added a toleration of +/-0.8 billion years ti this value to approach the big bang date which using similar calculation has a toleration of only +/-0.021 billion years ! – either the +/- 0.8 billion or the 0.021 is a non sense)

        What do you think about ?
        Of course, I’m no a scientist.

  1. ‘The biggest explosion seen in the Universe since the Big Bang.’ sounds very like the claims of ‘unprecedented’ in Global Warming/Climate Change Alarmism. Let’s just say ‘Big’ or ‘Very Big’ or even ‘Extremely Big’.

    • “The biggest explosion postulated to have happened to date since the time of the Big Bang”
      would have been better stated

      • No, wrong, it is just the largest even at this point and time we have observed. No one knowns with any degree of certainty if they are not bigger ones out there. I really get tired of so call “scientist ” misstating a fact. It show they are really out to generate grant money, rather than seek the truth.

      • “Scientists studying a distant galaxy cluster have discovered the biggest explosion seen in the Universe since the Big Bang.”

        Because we’ve seen every explosion that ever happened. Riiight.

        • So if a big explosion occurs, and no one is around to see it, did it really happen?

          It’s funny when this comes up. All those bigger explosions between then and now weren’t seen, making his statement accurate. There may have been bigger explosions, but they weren’t seen. The parsing is emphasizing the word ‘seen’. If someone has seen a bigger explosion since the big bang, I’m interested in hearing about it. Explosions that have been seen is a subset of all explosions.

          I hope you’re having fun yet.

  2. “the blast was similar to the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, which ripped the top off the mountain.”
    I just love astronomy ..

    • “There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.” -Mark Twain

      Full quote:
      “In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the old Oolitic Silurian Period, must a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upward of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have their streets joined together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”

  3. “390 million light-years” away.
    That’s like in our cosmic backyard kinda close.

    And they didn’t really “see” the actual initiating event. They are seeing just the expanding hole left by the shock front from some source; a shockfront through the very diffuse plasma.

    Just some ROM stuff:
    15 MilkyWays across (in diameter). So that’s roughly 7.5 MW diameters as radius.
    Our MW galaxy diameter is estimated at 105K Ly.
    7.5x105K Ly = 788,000 Ly radius hole in a galaxy cluster 390 Million Light years away.
    Round up to 800 KLy hole radius.

    If the shock wave averaged 0.1c, then this explosion started “just” ~8 Million years ago.

    But in the article they said, ““But it happened very slowly–like an explosion in slow motion that took place over hundreds of millions of years.””

    Even if we use a shock front average velocity of 0.01c ripping outwards, we’re at an age of 80 My ago to get a hole that big in the galaxy cluster plasma, which is still shorter by at least half of the “over hundreds of millions of years.”

    Something tells me their attempt to describe this as a “slow-motion” shock wave event in a gargantuan explosive event, an event that makes Type 1a supernovas and Binary Neutron Star kilonovas look like a small firecrackers, is off. So this doesn’t quite add up. There’s probably lots of hand-wavium involved here.

    • Interesting how it is theorized that primate to human evolution took about 8 million years. About as long as this explosion has been bombarding earth and its inhabitants.

    • If an explosion happened 80 My ago, in a galaxy 390 M light years away, perhaps in 310 Million years, our better detection methods will include traveling back to the event to observe it cooking off in real time.

    • “15 MilkyWays across (in diameter). So that’s roughly 7.5 MW diameters as radius.”

      How many Manhattans is that? Or Olympic-sized swimming pools? Or Obama oceanfront properties?

    • Ben Davidson is entertaining but not someone to take insights on astrophysics or cosmology from.
      He mixes in science observations (like from SDO or other NASA missions) with speculations to make it all seem believable.
      Same thing the Climate hustlers do. Take in a half portion of cookie dough, add in a half portion of dog doodoo, and bake it into cookies. And what you have make look like cookie, but I’d advise against consuming it.

      • Or how about Quintessence, Axions, WIMPS, dark energy, dark matter, accelerating inflation?

        The unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible, I’ll say!

        After all, Newton “the last alchemist”, as biographer Lord Maynard Keynes wrote, was not in fact the last of that line. Climate hustle seems merely the anteroom to this “illustrious” group.

  4. I envy the field of astronomy–where science-shaking observations are frequent and exciting, constantly pushing new theories and duscussion!

    With climate science, on the other hand, we’re told to shut up since it’s all settled–nothing to see here, folks!

    I definitely smell a rat, or maybe a whole ship full of rats!

  5. It is claimed as the biggest dent in space. I demur. The biggest dent in space is the 5 mile high statue of Arthur Dent. (Refer to HHGTTG)
    Douglas Adams was prescient and funny.

  6. If the explosion came out of the supermassive black hole itself that means…. that it was a faster than light explosion?

    Sounds like an inflation event. A mini-universe inside our universe? A universe that we can look at from the outside? That would be interesting.

    • Good point. Where above I said “expansion”, “inflation” would more accurately have described the expansion of spacetime.

    • Not that. The black hole ate a whole Galaxy and spew half of it away in the form of a jet. They see this jet expanding to the size of 15 milky ways.

  7. When I read articles like this I can’t help but wonder how many alien civilizations might have been snuffed out such explosions.

    I too love astronomy and cosmology, and have ever since I was a kid. I think I knew the term “ylem” as early as the eight grade.

    Here’s something you all might enjoy:

    “Deep Field: The impossible Magnitude of Our Universe”

    • I heard a good version of Paul Simon’s “American Tune” yesterday. This version is really good. Singer Kurt Elling.

  8. Sigh, is every science now hyper hyped. I think the gradual homogenization of broken sociology with science is taking its toll. Second largest after the Big Bang. Unprecedented (err…except for the big bang) but it was a slow one. And Gee strangely comparing it to Mount St. Helens, kinda, sorta. Sheesh. I think climate science made it okay to make models into observations. And feelings into theories that are settled.

    Yeah, it seems an exciting event butI have to call BS on the more hysterical aspects of the “discovery” which spoils it a little for me. A sceptic’s life is a tough one these days. Careful, I could get tagged with Astronomy Denier and I’m even a card carrying resident of this universe.

    • I was going to ask how she knows it was “second biggest”? Guess that would be asking too much.

      Less frustrating to just discuss music.

  9. I’ve been wondering this for a while–is there any science that precludes ‘black holes’ from being/containing the missing anti-matter that should have been produced balancing matter following the BB? That sure could produce one big bang if it swallowed something made of matter that was big enough.

    BTW–from a geologist’s point of view, and I assume any astronomer’s or astrophysicist’s, the title of this article is pure human hubris. If we, with our puny-and-approaching-zero time-element of existence haven’t seen one–in some 13 billion years of history there haven’t been others? Please.

    • Causality is a human notion. Arising out of our insistence on perceiving the world as a temporal narrative.

      • Temporal or kinetic? Either way, we lack the skill or causal capacity to observe and influence states and processes outside of a limited frame of reference. So, we pretend, we infer, and conflate logical domains.

  10. I love these stories that point out just how tiny we are. A little humility inducing reality check from time to time is a good thing.

  11. So what ever happened to Betelgeuse which was supposed to collapse into a ‘supernova’ on Feb 21st? ( 692 years after the actual event)? Did the models screw up again?
    Cheers
    Mike

    • I don’t know, but when I get home at night, Orion is standing off to the southwest, and is missing his right shoulder. Must have been quite a battle.

    • There was no prediction of Betelguese going supernova on February 21. There were no models involved either. Based on prior observation of Betelguese’s cyclical brightening and dimming, it should have stopped dimming on 2/21, which it did. So even though its dimming was much greater than usual, it stopped and reversed on time, suggesting that it wasn’t about to go supernovae.

  12. If the explosion happened hundreds of light years away, can someone explain how long ago the explosion actually happened?

    • “Actually” implies simultaneity at your location.
      Einstein showed very simply, but not too imply, that simultaneity is actually relative.
      We imply 390 million years ago from the red-shift of the galaxies’ spectra, and a presumed expansion of the universe with Doppler shift.
      So, for arguments sake, 390 million years ago here on earth, we would have observed likely then a previous outburst – as far as I know those objects are ultra-luminous galaxies anyway, very active.

  13. It is time, the Walrus said, to talk of Hawking’s 2014 report on Black Holes, seriously.

    Information Preservation and Weather Forecasting for Black Holes
    https://arxiv.org/abs/1401.5761

    He came at the subject of entropy and black hole event-horizons from the currently popular “information” approach of Quantum Mechanics.

    And – the bombshell is that black hole event horizons are ephemeral, chaotic and turbulent.

    This observation gives new meaning to “turbulent”.

    • “And – the bombshell is that black hole event horizons are ephemeral, chaotic and turbulent.”

      Pure conjecture, supposedly from Hawking. But how does he “speak” and “write” anything?

    • People want… nay, need to believe in something, a grand theory of everything, backed by myths (e.g. historical, physical), inference (i.e. created knowledge), liberal license (e.g. assumptions/assertions), conflation of logical domains, appeals to authority (e.g. God, gods, mortal gods), em-pathetic and sym-pathetic appeals, etc., and they are impatient to observe and replicate it in the near-domain (the scientific logical domain). And there are always Profits (sic) and acolytes who are prepared to normalize and exploit their beliefs, vulnerability, etc. for leverage. That said, this is not in and of itself a bad thing. For example, faith or trust, and religion or behavioral protocol (e.g. ethics or relativistic religion) are universal. #Liberalism (i.e. divergence) #Progressivism (i.e. monotonic [unqualified] change) #Conservatism (i.e. moderation) #PrinciplesMatter

  14. Too bad this is the purest form of conjecture and hyperbole from so-called “scientists”. All of you who have masturbatory fantasies of “other worlds” and “space aliens” are truly deceived and in the gall of bitterness.

  15. Surely, the supposed “big bang” was the biggest explosion in the (dramatic film music and god-like voice) History of the Universe.

    Should we not be a little more modest and say “the biggest bang we’ve ever seen” cor, like, it really went boom.

  16. “More research is required.” In other words, *scientists* want unlimited funds to conduct research on everything on earth, in earth, under earth, and well outside our solar system.
    Anyone who dissents is, well, “unscientific” and that’s SUCH a bad thing. What did we learn from this big explosion? Anything useful? Or just interesting to astrophysicists and astronomers? Be honest now.

    http://NASAGoldRecord.blogspot.com

  17. What is it?

    An “energetic outbust” detected by radio wave telescopes interpreted as signals emitted by X-rays, as stated by the scientist… “The radio data fit inside the X-rays like a hand in a glove,”

    OK

    The source of the X-rays and the physics that drive it is at issue.

    Science knows that electric fields can generate X-rays.

    Radiologists do it everyday when they take an X-ray image on film of a broken bone.

    It is an electromagnetic machine that generates the X-rays.

    At the center of a galaxy?

    An electromagnetic plasmoid, or simply an electromagnetic entity.

    The press release acknowledges “plasma”, an ionized state of matter, near the center of the galaxy:

    “It was so powerful it punched a cavity in the cluster plasma–the super-hot gas”

    After that… it’s pure a priori assumption.

    Science can produce and replicate in the laboratory a “plasma focus”, a type of plasmoid, at a small scale — electromagnetism is known to be scale independent to 16 orders of magnitude — and that laboratory plasma experiment produces X-rays and other electromagnetic waves and particles.

    Nothing in Mankind’s experience of gravity suggests it has such properties.

    That’s why the necessity for such undefined & superlative terms, such as “near infinite density” or “near infinitely small space”.

    After all that, the detection equipment is excellent… the technology of detection devices gets better all the time… the interpretation of the observations is key.

  18. people making these type claims are NOT scientists on any level…….speculators using incredibly limited info

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