Gamma Ray Burst Was Literally The Largest Explosion Ever Seen

A recently discovered gamma ray burst is quite likely the largest explosion ever witnessed by scientists. It might even be considered the largest such cosmic event ever, if not for the original Big Bang. Lucky for us on Earth, the burst didn’t come closer than 3.7 billion light-years. If our blue planet was hit by such an awesome radiation blast, life would come to a swift end, with nothing more than an airless, charred ball left.

A gamma ray burst is an incredibly violent event which comes after the death of a massive star. The collapse is so powerful that it results in an event called a supernova, which produces a newly formed black hole. Before it can do that, however, the former star shoots a great deal of deadly radiation out into the cosmos. Truly, going out with a bang.

As Yahoo! News reports, NASA astrophysics chief Paul Hertz called the incredible gamma ray burst a “once-in-a-century cosmic event.” Since putting telescopes in orbit more than a couple of decades ago, NASA and others typically observe a gamma ray burst several times a week. However, this recent burst, originally observed on April 27, set records.

Before it, the crown had gone to an event observed in 1999. This recent burst was measured to have five times the energy of the 1999 burst, taking the crown without contest. While our atmosphere typically makes viewing such an event with telescopes on Earth impossible, a brief flash was observed coming from the constellation Leo. It could not be seen with the naked eye, though.

One researcher recalls the sudden discovery, saying it was “extremely bright; a monster gamma ray burst.” Because the burst was so massive, it left an afterglow for several months, according to Science World Report.

Scientists were able to observe this afterglow and learn more about the blast. What they found was that the “monster” gamma ray burst came from a giant star with 20 to 30 times the mass of our own sun. However, it was likely only three or four times bigger in size. And though light travels quickly, scientists say it took 3.75 billion years for the violent explosion to be seen from Earth.

So were we Earthlings lucky to have missed the blast? Undoubtedly, but scientists say the odds of our planet being hit by a gamma ray burst to be very low, at a chance of less than 1 in 10 million.

[Image via NASA]

Share this article: Gamma Ray Burst Was Literally The Largest Explosion Ever Seen
More from Inquisitr