NASA detects the biggest explosion ever recorded in space

NASA detects the biggest explosion ever recorded in space

Although we all have differences, there is one commonality that has prevailed for all of humanity: we are all floating on a rock, flying through outer space at over a million miles an hour.

Thanks to rapid advances in technology over the past century, we can observe much more of the universe than we ever thought possible.

The scale and sheer size of the universe makes it impossible to truly learn everything, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

Here’s what’s happening in space this week.


Astronomers around the world were stunned when multiple telescopes on the ground and orbiting Earth detected an incredibly large gamma-ray burst (GRB).

Early Sunday morning, an “unusually bright and long-lasting pulse of high-energy radiation” swept across planet Earth, according to NASA.

The massive X-ray and gamma-ray burst, labeled GRB 221009A, was detected by telescopes around the world, including NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.

A capture of the afterglow of GRB221009A from the Swift X-ray Telescope showing X-rays scattered in the direction of the burst.

A capture of the afterglow of GRB221009A from the Swift X-ray Telescope showing X-rays scattered in the direction of the burst.

Photo credit NASA/Swift/A. Beardmore (University of Leicester)

Although it was detected less than a week ago, NASA said it actually happened over 2 billion years ago and the ancient light emitted from it only now reached Earth. The burst, which NASA’s telescope detected for more than 10 hours, came at a surprisingly coincidental time, the start of the 10th Fermi Symposium, an event that hosts gamma-ray astronomers.

An assistant Project Fermi scientist who attended the conference, Judy Racusin, told NASA that the burst was an exciting start to the event.

“It’s safe to say that this meeting really got off to a great start – everyone’s talking about it,” she said.

The light emitted by GRB221009A was so bright that several gamma ray detectors were temporarily blinded. The gamma-ray burst emits more energy in one second than our Sun will produce in its entire lifespan of more than 10 billion years.

NASA/Swift/B.  Cenko

A Swift telescope capture taken in the visible spectrum shows the GRB afterglow fading over the course of 10 hours.

Photo credit NASA/Swift/B. Cenko

Although it occurred 2 billion light-years away, the GRB was relatively close compared to the distance of previous bursts, giving astronomers a rare chance to observe and study such a massive energy release. .

Gamma-ray bursts are not at all uncommon, however, one of this magnitude is. University of Maryland astrophysicist Brendan O’Connor said in a statement that this type of event can occur once every 100 years.

“We believe this is a unique opportunity to address some of the most fundamental questions about these explosions, from the formation of black holes to testing models of dark matter,” he said.

NASA’s current hypothesis is that the origin of this GRB was the collapse of a massive star, which then triggered a supernova, ultimately giving rise to a monstrous black hole.


The GRB was not a threat to Earth, but the burst disrupted Earth’s atmosphere and ionized the ionosphere, a region of the atmosphere that reflects radio waves used for communication, causing interference in signals radio.

Astronomers’ excitement hasn’t stopped with the GRB, as they now also have a rare opportunity to study the afterglow of the burst, which should continue to glow for months.

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