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Largest cosmic explosion ever spotted by astronomers

Astronomers discovered the largest cosmic blast ever seen – it lasted for more than three year.

After coming off orbit, a huge cloud of gas, thousands of times larger than the sun, was believed to be responsible for the explosion.

The cloud fragments would have been absorbed, forming a dusty “doughnut”, around the blackhole.

Astronomers say that such events are rare but have never been seen before.


Dr Philip Wiseman of the University of Southampton who conducted the research said, “We found this by accident, as our search algorithm flagged it when we searched for a particular type of supernova.

Most supernovae and tidal disturbance events last only a few months before they fade away. It was very rare for something to remain bright for more than two years.

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The study found that the explosion occurred at a distance of eight billion light-years, around six billion years ago, and it is still being detected today by a vast network of telescopes.

AT2021lwx has been detected first by the Zwicky Transient Facility, located in California. It was then picked up by ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial Impact Last Alert System), based in Hawaii.

The magnitude of the explosion was not known until recently.

Last year, the brightest explosion ever recorded was a gamma ray burst called GRB 221009A.

The brightness of this explosion was higher than AT2021lwx but it only lasted a fraction as long, so the total energy released by AT2021lwx was much greater.

Dr Wiseman said that these events may be key to understanding the changes in the centre of galaxies over time.


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