Astronomers have compiled a stunning composite image of an extraordinarily large explosion that’s being powered by one of the largest supermassive black holes known to science.
The blast is located in galaxy cluster MS 0735.6+7421, which is located 2.6 billion light-years from Earth. As reported in ABC Science, the explosion, an active galactic nucleus (AGN) eruption that has been ongoing for the last 100 million years, is being fueled by a supermassive black hole that’s over 10 billion times the mass of our Sun.
Astronomers have calculated that the explosion has already consumed about 600 million times the mass of our Sun. It has released the energy equivalent to hundreds of millions of gamma ray bursts—one of the most destructive forces in the Universe. The AGN’s total energy output to date is estimated at 1055 Joules. Astronomers are calling it the most powerful explosion to have happened in the known Universe since the Big Bang.
This AGN has been known to astronomers since 2005, but the new composite image, combining X-ray, radio, and visible light images, is offering an unprecedented view of the phenomenon.
Looking at the image above, the pink blobs show vast cavities that measure a whopping 600,000 light-years across. For comparison, our Galaxy, the Milky Way, measures 100,000 light-years in diameter. These cavities, filled with a two-sided, elongated, magnetized bubble of extremely high-energy electrons, have displaced a trillion suns’ worth of mass, and are now bleeding high-energy electrons that were detected by the Very Large Array radio telescope.
The X-rays, which show massive swaths of hot gas, were detected by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and are shown in blue. The optical image portion was snapped by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him at @dvorsky. Top image by NASA/CXC/Univ. of Waterloo/A.Vantyghem/NASA/STScI/NRAO/VLA