Science & Tech

Astronomers have finally figured out the source of the brightest explosion ever recorded

Astronomers have finally figured out the source of the brightest explosion ever recorded
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Astronomers believe they might have found the source of the brightest explosion ever in space.

The record-breaking explosion recorded in October 2022 was the most powerful ever seen, leaving equipment and instruments struggling to measure it as it pointed directly at planet Earth.

The bright gamma-ray burst is officially called GRB 221009A and when it first went off, scientists were left scrabbling to point telescopes in its direction to record it.

The explosion has affectionately been nicknamed BOAT, standing for “brightest of all time”, and was caused by the death of a large star located 2.4 billion light-years away – relatively close in terms of space activity.

The star collapsed into a black hole after ejecting its outer envelope, causing this huge, bright explosion comprised of gamma rays, producing not only a narrow structured jet but with an additional outflow of gas.

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The Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 revealed the infrared afterglow (circled) of the BOAT GRB and its host galaxy, seen nearly edge-on as a sliver of light extending to upper left from the burst.NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, A. Levan (Radboud University); Image Processing: Gladys Kober

This “exceptionally rare event” surprised astronomers, who had not predicted the existence of gas, and certainly provides plenty of new information around the question of how black holes form.

The study’s lead author and astronomer from George Washington University, Brendan O'Connor, explained: “GRB 221009A represents a massive step forward in our understanding of gamma-ray bursts, and demonstrates that the most extreme explosions do not obey the standard physics assumed for garden variety gamma-ray bursts.”

He continued: “GRB 221009A might be the equivalent Rosetta stone of long GRBs, forcing us to revise our standard theories of how relativistic outflows are formed in collapsing massive stars.”

The huge and long-lasting blast measured up to 18 teraelectronvolts which is a staggering record for a gamma-ray burst, leaving scientists to hypothesise that it was a supernova.

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