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SYFY WIRE Black Holes

Supermassive black hole blasted the biggest explosion ever

By Elizabeth Rayne
black hole

Three-hundred and ninety million light years away, something monstrous blew up.

That something was a supermassive black hole quietly lurking in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster until it literally spilled all its guts. It was a boom so massive, the gas crater it left in its wake was easily the size of 15 Milky Ways. Simona Giacintucci of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington and her research team recently observed it from NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory, which teamed up with a European space observatory and several ground telescopes to see this shocker.

Get this: the explosion that was just seen was five times larger than what is now the second largest black hole outburst seen by human eyes.

“The Ophiuchus galaxy cluster exhibits a curious concave gas density discontinuity at the edge of its cool core,” Giacintucci said in a study recently published in the Astrophysical Journal, “we found that the X-ray structure is, in fact, a giant cavity in the X-ray gas.”

So what does that mean for this phenomenon? Black holes may gorge on all the matter their intense gravitational forces can grab, but they also spew stuff out. The jets of energy and material that a black hole vomits can leave behind a crater in the gas, which gave the edge of Ophiuchus (a cluster of thousands of galaxies) a bizarre curve. Further study proved that the curvature was a sign of a crater from the most immense explosion we have ever detected in the universe — so far.

Ophiuchus, the 11th largest constellation known so far, is often shown in the image of a man holding a snake. It suffered this unexpected blowout in the middle of its large central galaxy. The snake thing was really appropriate this time. It’s as if something deadly was hiding in the darkness of space until all its venom was unleashed, and this is actually what happened.

The distance this was observed at means that it took 390 million years for light from the explosive event to reach our planet, so at the time this happened, Earth was ruled by proto-fish, with no dinosaurs in sight. You could say it’s a cosmic fossil.

“This dinosaur may be an early example of a new class of sources to be uncovered by low-frequency surveys of galaxy clusters,” said Giacintucci.

Both your mind and a distant galaxy have officially been blown.

(via AP News)