BOOM! The biggest known explosion ever in the Universe’s history!

Image: © X-ray: Chandra: NASA/CXC/NRL/S. Giacintucci, et al., XMM-Newton: ESA/XMM-Newton; Radio: NCRA/TIFR/GMRT; Infrared: 2MASS/UMass/IPAC-Caltech/NASA/NSF

Scientists, while studying a very distant cluster of galaxies, have discovered the biggest explosion ever seen in the Universe since the Big Bang! The energy released from this explosion is five times larger than the previous record holder, which occurred in the galaxy cluster MS0735+74.

The blast occurred in an Active Galactic Nucleus (AGN) in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster, about 390 million light-years from Earth. AGN are galaxies that host a super-massive black hole at their center and are responsible for notable powerful flares and intense emission of radiation through the entire electromagnetic spectrum (from radio up to X-rays and gamma-rays). For instance, the super-massive black hole at the center of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is currently dormant, though in the past it has been an AGN. The Ophiuchus explosion was so powerful that it punched a cavity in the cluster plasma – the super-hot gas surrounding the super-massive black hole. The duration of this explosion did not happen near-instantly as such the Big Bang which the Universe originates. This explosion took place over hundreds of millions of years.

The hot plasma cavity had been previously seen in the X-rays. However, the idea of existence of such energetic outburst was dismissed, because it would have been too big. The researches only realized what they have been discovered when they looked at the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster with the radio telescopes. This blast was discovered using two space-based X-ray telescopes, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton, in addition to two ground-based radio observatories, the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) in Australia and the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) in India.

The researchers expect to find even more such explosions, since the sensitivity of the radio telescopes is going to be ten times higher in the near future, while this discovery strengthen the importance studying the Universe at different wavelengths.


A Quick Look at the Biggest Explosion Ever Seen in the Universe
(Credit: NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

This work was published in the Feb. 27 issue of The Astrophysical journal with the title: “DISCOVERY OF A GIANT RADIO FOSSIL IN THE OPHIUCHUS GALAXY CLUSTER”. The led author was Dr Simona Giacintucci, from the Naval Research Laboratory in the United States. A pre-print of this paper can be found in: