A recent study reveals that astronomers have observed the most powerful cosmic explosion ever recorded in history, named AT2021lwx. The explosion had a brightness 200 trillion times that of the Sun and may have been caused by a massive gas cloud falling into a black hole.
According to The Guardian on May 11th, a research study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society indicates that astronomers have observed the largest-scale cosmic explosion ever recorded. This explosion, named AT2021lwx, can be traced back more than 8 billion light-years and has been ongoing for over three years. AT2021lwx is over ten times brighter than known supernovae and represents the highest-energy explosion on record. Dr. Wiezmann, an astronomer from the University of Southampton, stated, “We estimate that this fireball is about 100 times the size of the solar system and has a brightness 200 trillion times that of the Sun. Over the course of three years, the energy released by this eruption is approximately 100 times the energy the Sun will release over its 10-billion-year lifespan.”
This explosion was initially detected by the Zwicky Transient Facility in California in 2020. The facility observed a sudden increase in brightness in the night sky, which could indicate the discovery of a supernova or the passage of asteroids and comets. The initial discovery was not particularly noteworthy, but further observations made astronomers realize it was an extremely rare finding. The explosion exceeded the reasonable range for a supernova, leading astronomers to consider it as a tidal disruption event (Editor’s note: when an object, such as a star, wanders too close to a black hole and is torn apart by the strong tidal forces generated by the black hole), which is another common occurrence that causes bright flashes in the night sky.