Astronomers observed the largest known explosion in space. This is a multi-year event associated with a supermassive black hole, which, according to scientists, is a billion times more massive than the Sun. This is reported by The Register with reference to a study published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The flare, codenamed AT2021lwx, was first detected in 2020 by the Zwicky Transient Facility ground-based telescopes in California and the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System in Hawaii. Later, the team, analyzing this data, realized that what they saw corresponds to the profile of a supermassive black hole that absorbs matter.
“We came upon this by chance, as it was flagged by our search algorithm when we were searching for a type of supernova,” said Philip Wiseman, a researcher at the University of Southampton in England who led the study.
The astronomer team believes this rare event has lasted so long because the supermassive black hole at the heart of it has been feeding on matter from a gigantic gas cloud, possibly thousands of times more massive than the Sun. As material is pulled and swallowed by the void, it is compressed into a disk-shape. Frictional forces heat up the accretion disk, and eject beams of electromagnetic energy.
The process of activity is expected to last longer than is usually observed, particularly for supernovae. It will be possible to observe it with telescopes for at least a few more years. However, scientists say that such things can be unpredictable.
A supermassive black hole is located at a distance of eight billion light years from us. It is believed to have formed when the universe was about six billion years old. The team will continue to study the explosion and plans to observe it with spacecraft such as NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope or the James Webb Space Telescope to try to find the galaxy that hosts the supermassive black hole.
“It’s important because everything we are made of has been processed through stars and ejected across space by supernovae. Black holes and exploding stars are what sculpt galaxies, and tell us how the Universe and ultimately the solar system and Earth came to look how they do today,” explained Philip Wiseman.
We will remind that in April astronomers successfully launched the super high pressure (SuperBIT) telescope on a giant balloon filled with helium. During the first flight above the Earth’s atmosphere, the balloon-telescope already took its debut pictures.