Biggest explosion since the Big Bang detected from supermassive black hole at centre of mystery galaxy

THE BIGGEST recorded explosion since the Big Bang has been detected by astronomers – and traced back to a supermassive black hole.

It lies a mammoth 390miillion light years away, which means the event took place hundreds of millions of years ago.

The cosmic bang created a huge dent in the cluster plasma, the super-hot gas surrounding the black hole.

This dent is so large it could fit 15 Milky Way size galaxies inside.

The eruption was also said to be around five times as powerful as the previous "biggest explosion" record-holder.

And it's particularly mysterious because scientists can't say why it's so big – or what caused it.

The explosion is being compared to the huge Mount St. Helens eruption that occurred in 1980.

Simona Giacintucci , lead author of a study into the explosion, said: "A key difference is that you could fit 15 Milky Way galaxies in a row into the crater this eruption punched into the cluster's hot gas."

The study authors think the eruption was caused by the huge black hole absorbing an excessive amount of gas.

It's well known that black holes draw material towards them but they can also spew it back out in jets or streams.Astronomers have spotted the giant cavity before.

Back in 2008, a team using X-ray telescopes first discovered the giant plasma cluster.

But it wasn't until the area was examined using a radio telescope that they realised it was actually an enormous explosion.

"The radio data fit inside the X-rays like a hand in a glove,' said co-author Dr Maxim Markevitch, from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

"This is the clincher that tells us an eruption of unprecedented size occurred here."

It reinforces the importance of examining distant space using different wavelengths, experts say.

The discovery was made using four telescopes, two of which are orbiting Earth.

One of them is the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, a space telescope designed to detect X-ray emissions from hot regions of the universe.

This includes galaxy clusters, star explosions and the matter that gathers around black holes.

X-rays are usually absorbed by Earth's atmosphere.

But Chandra orbits above it at an altitude of 86,500 miles, giving it a perfect "space view" of X-rays.

The telescope was launched in 1999 and has passed its projected lifespan by nearly 15 years.

What is a black hole? The key facts

Here's what you need to know…

What is a black hole?

  • A black hole is a region of space where absolutely nothing can escape
  • That's because they have extremely strong gravitational effects, which means once something goes into a black hole, it can't come back out
  • They get their name because even light can't escape once it's been sucked in – which is why a black hole is completely dark

What is an event horizon?

  • There has to be a point at which you're so close to a black hole you can't escape
  • Otherwise literally everything in the universe would have been sucked into one
  • The point at which you can no longer escape from a black hole's gravitational pull is called the event horizon
  • The event horizon varies between different black holes, depending on their mass and size

What is a singularity?

  • The gravitational singularity is the very centre of a black hole
  • It's a one-dimensional point that contains an incredibly large mass in an infinitely small space
  • At the singularity, space-time curves infinitely and the gravitational pull is infinitely strong
  • Conventional laws of physics stop applying at this point

How are black holes created?

  • Most black holes are made when a supergiant star dies
  • This happens when stars run out of fuel – like hydrogen – to burn, causing the star to collapse
  • When this happens, gravity pulls the centre of the star inwards quickly, and collapses into a tiny ball
  • It expands and contracts until one final collapse, causing part of the star to collapse inward thanks to gravity, and the rest of the star to explode outwards
  • The remaining central ball is extremely dense, and if it's especially dense, you get a black hole

In other space news, Earth may have a brand new "mini moon" after gravity yanked an asteroid into orbit.

A large planet outside of our Solar System may have "the right conditions for life".

And, a stunning image of the Moon, Mars and the International Space Station has been revealed by Nasa.

What do you make of this black hole explosion? Let us know in the comments…

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