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Scientists Detect Biggest Explosion In The Universe Since The Big Bang

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Scientists Detect Biggest Explosion In The Universe Since The Big Bang

An incredibly powerful cosmic blast in a distant galaxy has broken the record for the brightest light ever seen from Earth.

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If you're struggling to imagine such a thing, that's because the numbers behind this explosion - which is one of the biggest events of this nature since the Big Bang - are absolutely staggering.

Basically, a massive amount of energy was released through a gamma ray burst about seven billion light years away and, in a matter of seconds, it created more energy than our sun - the nearest star to us - will generate in its entire 10-billion-year life span.

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Gamma ray bursts are the most energetic events in the universe, and the most massive since the big one that set everything off in the first place.

Well, that's according to Dr Gemma Anderson, who was one of the co-authors of the study of these recent events.

Anderson worked with 300 scientists from around the world on the discovery, but the research was led by researchers at Curtin University in Western Australia.

It's pretty lucky that we could see it at all, to be fair.

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These cosmic blasts are coming at us from so far away that we can only pick them up when the beams are coming straight at us, and they can last for just a matter of milliseconds, or up to a couple of hours.

An illustration of a gamma ray burst from neutron stars colliding. Credit: PA
An illustration of a gamma ray burst from neutron stars colliding. Credit: PA

Perhaps the most amazing thing about this whole thing is that such massive events come to us via such miniscule margins.

That's not to say they aren't at least frequent. Gamma ray bursts reach us around once per day at completely random intervals.

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Dr Anderson said: "'They are likely produced by a massive star being blown apart in a supernova, with the resulting explosion leaving behind a black hole."

This particular massive event reached us on 14 January 2019 and within 22 seconds its location had been communicated by the satellites that detected it to the scientists around the globe responsible for them.

In their first observation, two telescopes discovered particles of light that were between 0.2 and one tera electron volts.

In scientific terms - stop me if I'm being too technical here - that's f***ing bright.

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Yeah, they're pretty powerful. Credit: PA
Yeah, they're pretty powerful. Credit: PA

Imagine, if you will, the energy created by the Large Hadron Collider, but it's just one particle of many. That's a lot of Large Hadron Colliders there.

Still struggling to grasp the scale of this thing? Yeah, that's pretty normal.

Dr Anderson continued: "It's a trillion times more energetic than visible light. It makes this the brightest known source of TeV photons in the universe."

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So, why is this important? Well, they hope that it will shine some light - excuse the crass pun - on how these events, and black holes, are created.

Dr Paul Kuin, of University College London, said: "We've now seen extremely high-energy light is released in the afterglow period - something that was only predicted before in models.

"Comparative studies suggest this is not an unusual feature."

Anyway, the abiding hope has to be that we can continue to observe these events and keep learning.

Let's just hope they stay as far away as this one.

Featured Image Credit: MAGIC Collaboration Max Planck Institute for Physics

Topics: Science, World News, Technology, space

Tom Wood
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