Astronomers detected an enormous explosion in a galaxy more than 390 light-years away, with scientists claiming the eruption is the largest explosion ever recorded since the Big Bang. In fact, the burst was five times as powerful as the previous largest explosion in space ever recorded.
"We've seen outbursts in the centers of galaxies before but this one is really, really massive," said Melanie Johnston-Hollitt, co-author of the paper that documented the blast and an astrophysicist at the Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy (via Vice).
"And we don't know why it's so big," she added.
The eruption occurred in the Ophiuchus supercluster, which houses its namesake Ophichus, formerly Serpentarius, constellation.
Astrophysicists have claimed that the source of the mammoth detonation was an active galactic nucleus. Active galactic nuclei, or AGNs, are among the most powerful and long-lived objects in the universe, with a hypothesized black hole at the core fueling their energy. AGNs often emit powerful flares as well as radiation rays.
However, this has been an explosion on an unprecedented scale, causing a huge hole in the plasma surrounding the explosion.
"People were skeptical because of the size of outburst," Johnston-Hollitt added. "But it really is that. The universe is a weird place."
The explosion was so large that as many as 15 Milky Way galaxies could fit inside the crater caused by the blast, according to Interesting Engineering.
"In some ways, this blast is similar to how the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980 ripped off the top of the mountain. 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," explained research co-author Simone Giacintucci.
The eruption of Mount St. Helens was one of the worst explosions in history, causing the largest debris avalanche ever recorded and claiming 57 lives. Its ash moved at a speed of 60 mph, reaching across 10 states as well as multiple provinces in Canada.
Though astronomers are comparing the blast to the Big Bang due to its size, differences are in evidence, including the fact that the Big Bang happened nearly instantaneously, whereas this explosion burned over a vast period of hundreds of millions of years.
Though many questions remain about the event, scientists are hopeful that the giant cosmic "fossil" left behind will give some more clues. Johnston-Hollitt also pointed out that technology is expected to become exponentially more sophisticated in the coming years, adding even more hope for scientific exploration.
"I think that's pretty exciting," Johnston-Hollitt said.
The new findings come on the heels of another astronomical breakthrough for which a dead star was documented dragging spacetime around itself, as was previously reported by The Inquisitr.