SYDNEY — Scientists in Australia have detected the largest explosion seen in the Universe since the Big Bang, which emitted five times the energy of the previous record holder, they revealed on Friday.
The explosion came from a supermassive black hole, at the centre of a galaxy hundreds of millions of light years away.
Researchers at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Western Australia still don’t know exactly what caused the blast, but observed that it created a massive cavity in the the cluster plasma, or super-hot gas, surrounding the black hole.
“You could fit 15 Milky Way galaxies in a row into the crater this eruption punched into the cluster’s hot gas,” said lead author of the study Dr Simona Giacintucci, from the Naval Research Laboratory in the United States.
When they initially observed the hole in the plasma cluster, scientists were sceptical that it could have been caused by an explosion because it was simply too big.
“People were sceptical because the size of outburst,” Professor Melanie Johnston-Hollitt, from Australia’s Curtin University said.
“But it really is that. The Universe is a weird place.”
It was through using radio telescopes to confirm their data that the team were able to accept what they had found.
“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.
Given that they now have the ability to scan the universe in a more comprehensive way than ever, the team believes that this could just be the first of many astonishing finds.
“We made this discovery with Phase 1 of the MWA, when the telescope had 2048 antennas pointed towards the sky,” Johnston-Hollitt 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.”