June 3, 2023
Scientists released images of what is being called the largest explosion ever in space.

Scientists released images of what is being called the largest explosion ever in space.

The phenomenon was the result of a gamma-ray burst — the strongest and brightest explosion in the universe. The new record-holder was recorded on Oct. 9, according to NASA. It was so powerful that it effectively blinded the space instruments meant to record it. GRB 221009A occurred 1.9 billion years ago, and it was likely the result of a colossal star collapsing into a black hole.

Gamma ray burst
XMM-Newton images recorded 20 dust rings, 19 of which are shown here in arbitrary colors. This composite merges observations made two and five days after GRB 221009A erupted. Dark stripes indicate gaps between the detectors. A detailed analysis shows that the widest ring visible here, comparable to the apparent size of a full moon, came from dust clouds located about 1,300 light-years away. The innermost ring arose from dust at a distance of 61,000 light-years – on the other side of our galaxy. GRB221009A is only the seventh gamma-ray burst to display X-ray rings, and it triples the number previously seen around one.
ESA/XMM-Newton/M. Rigoselli (INAF)


“GRB 221009A was likely the brightest burst at X-ray and gamma-ray energies to occur since human civilization began,” said Eric Burns, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Louisiana State University.

Because the explosion blinded the instruments meant to record gamma-ray bursts, its true measurement had to be recreated by stitching together pieces of data from United States, Chinese, and Russian scientists. The final reading came in at 70 times greater than the next largest recorded space explosion.

GRB illustration
This illustration shows the ingredients of a long gamma-ray burst, the most common type. The core of a massive star (left) has collapsed, forming a black hole that sends a jet of particles moving through the collapsing star and out into space at nearly the speed of light. Radiation across the spectrum arises from hot ionized gas (plasma) in the vicinity of the newborn black hole, collisions among shells of fast-moving gas within the jet (internal shock waves), and from the leading edge of the jet as it sweeps up and interacts with its surroundings (external shock).
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

The burst may also change how scientists understand gamma-ray bursts.

“Being so close and so bright, this burst offered us an unprecedented opportunity to gather observations of the afterglow across the electromagnetic spectrum and to test how well our models reflect what’s really happening in GRB jets,” said Kate Alexander, assistant professor in the department of astronomy at the University of Arizona.

“Twenty-five years of afterglow models that have worked very well cannot completely explain this jet. In particular, we found a new radio component we don’t fully understand. This may indicate additional structure within the jet or suggest the need to revise our models of how GRB jets interact with their surroundings.”

GRB comparison
This chart compares the BOAT’s prompt emission to that of five previous record-holding long gamma-ray bursts. The BOAT was so bright it effectively blinded most gamma-ray instruments in space, but U.S. scientists were able to reconstruct its true brightness from Fermi data.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and Adam Goldstein (USRA)


The explosion was so large that scientists stress the near inability to comprehend such an outpouring of energy.

“There is nothing in human experience that comes anywhere remotely close to such an outpouring of energy,” Dr. Dan Perley of the Astrophysics Research Institute at Liverpool John Moores University told the Guardian. “Nothing.”

Leave a Reply