Astronomers Just Discovered the Biggest Explosion Ever

Astronomers Just Discovered the Biggest Explosion Ever

[ intro ] Ever since 2016, astronomers have been puzzling over a strange
feature in the galaxy cluster Ophiuchus that no one could quite explain. It looked kind of like a crater in the gas
surrounding one of the galaxies near the middle of the cluster. No one knew what to make of that. But just last week, astronomers published a paper in The Astrophysical
Journal announcing that it was caused by the largest
explosion we’ve ever detected! Which kind of seems like something that’d
be hard to keep under wraps. But even though astronomers have been looking
at the remnants of this explosion for four years, it wasn’t always obvious what they were
looking at. Back in 2016, a collaboration of astronomers based at Stanford
first saw something fishy in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster when they analyzed data from the Chandra X-Ray
Observatory. The cluster is about 390 million light-years
away, and it has a whole bunch of galaxies surrounded
by dust and gas. And in particular, this team focused on this one big galaxy toward the center of the cluster with a supermassive
black hole in its center. In their images, they saw a sharp, curved
line around that galaxy, kind of like a border. And inside that line, it looked like a lot of the gas had just been
scooped out. Now, a feature like this wasn’t totally
unheard of. In those cases, scientists figured out that they were looking at cavities left over
by outbursts from black holes. So this team thought, maybe this was similar— just a big explosion. But when they crunched the numbers to see what it would take to carve out a cavity
that size, they found it would have had to be five times
more energetic than the largest known explosion at the time. And they didn’t think that was too likely. They reasoned that such a big explosion probably would have destroyed the cool gas
surrounding the core of this galaxy, which was definitely still there. So they ruled out that hypothesis. But they still couldn’t figure out what
was causing this weird feature. So a second team of researchers picked up
where they left off. This team, based at the Naval Research Laboratory
in Washington, D.C., had access to new data. Similar to the first team, they used X-ray data from ESA’s XMM-Newton
satellite to confirm that the cavity existed. But unlike the first team, they also looked at radio data from the Murchison
Widefield Array in Australia and from the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope
in India. And that offered them a new clue. That radio data revealed loads of electrons
inside the cavity accelerated to near the speed of light— fast enough to emit their own radio waves. And electrons don’t just take off at relativistic
speeds without something really strong accelerating
them. So, looking at this big ol’ hole punched
out of the gas, filled with relativistic electrons, this team could be pretty sure what they were
looking at: an outburst from a supermassive black hole. Near the poles of some black holes, sometimes matter doesn’t fall in but instead
gets accelerated to relativistic speeds and shot back into space in a huge burst of
energy. Astronomers have observed bursts like this
before, but mostly on much smaller scales. The explosion they were looking at was truly
gigantic— hundreds of thousands of times larger than most black hole outbursts and five times larger than the previous record-holder! With lots of these bursts, any cool gas around
the core of the galaxy can be destroyed, which is why the first team had ruled out
the possibility of an explosion. But in this galaxy, the temperature and density of the gas drops
off especially quickly with radius, which might have made it more resilient to
a large burst— especially one that didn’t hit head-on. The cool thing about this discovery is not
just that it’s a huge explosion in space— though that is also cool – it also illustrates
how science builds upon itself. The second team was only able to make this
incredible discovery because another team had tackled it first. They used some of the same data and calculations— just a few years and a few thousand miles
apart! Much closer to home, last week we also got an update in cute astronomy
news: Earth has a little baby moon! A mini-moon! It’s about the size of a car, and based on its trajectory, scientists think it’s been orbiting us for
about three years— we’ve probably just been missing it because
it’s so small. And it’s pretty exciting! It’s only the second time we’ve ever spotted
a natural object other than the Moon in orbit around the Earth. But scientists have pointed out that this
isn’t actually a super-rare phenomenon. Since everything in the solar system is constantly
in motion, planets capture small objects all the time. Astronomers estimate that at any given point, there’s probably at least one meter-sized
rock orbiting the Earth. But they can be really hard to detect because
they’re usually very small, and they don’t tend to stick around for
long. We found the first one back in 2006, and that one stayed in orbit for less than
a year after its discovery. Sadly, our new friend won’t be here for
long either. In fact, it looks like we spotted it just
in time. It’s projected to leave Earth’s orbit
in April. Unfortunately, orbital dynamics make it hard
for mini-moons to stay around Earth. That’s mostly because the Moon— like the main moon, really throws things off: it’s big and near enough to keep new mini-moons
in chaotic orbits that never settle. They either burn up in Earth’s atmosphere
or get ejected from the system. And our newest mini-moon is headed out— in April, it will leave us for more exciting
places. So pretty soon we’ll be back down to just
one moon— but considering how many tiny objects are
out there, we may have another visitor sooner than you’d
think! Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow
Space! And a special thanks to our patrons who make
episodes like this possible. We couldn’t keep making these videos without
your support. So if you wanna thanks us you can also thank
our patrons. you can find out more at patreon.comSciShow. [ outro ]


  1. (5:42) "Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun." — Douglas Adams

  2. 4:26
    Me: That's no moon. Its a space station.

    Its too small to be a space station.

    Me: A Tesla then ?

  3. Yah know if you want to be pedantic a moon is just an object in orbit so Earth has probably the highest number of moons in the solar system since basically, every Satelite is a moon.

  4. Luna is such a downer. Other planets have multiple partners, yet she gets upset when earth wants some fun? I get that she doesn’t want earth to be a hoe like Jupiter, but Phobos and Deimos get around just fine. I fear that if she keeps up being so prude that the two are slowly drifting apart from each other.

  5. That was quite an abrupt turn that that mini moon just took as it left earths orbit. Almost like it’s an alien spaceship. Space car?

  6. 5:35 what happened there, last tail of the trajectory broke the laws of physics and changed direction… must be aliens.

  7. NASA LIES ARE THE EXPLOSIVE NEWS HERE: Astronaut tells Truth about Moon landing 2:54 min in

  8. 2:21 that's the most phallic thing I've ever seen (excluding actual phalli). It even looks like a cross-section at one end.

  9. every time i see this clown hosting anything i know i cant believe a word they say and ruins my enjoyment of the video.

  10. Ophiuchius is the NASA-acknowleged 13th Earthly Zodiac, from Nov 30th to Dec 17th. Unknown however, it's actually the Zodiac of the Son-of-God, having entered that circle when he was born 2,000 years ago and increasing in size …
    the blog about it and God, is at

  11. @SciShow if we count that as a moon, don't we have to count every object floating around Saturn as it's own moon including chunks of rock in it's ring system? Shouldn't we have similar designations for what constitutes a moon as what constitutes a planet, and maybe call these super small objects which have not cleared their orbits and are not round "dwarf moons"?

  12. Some scientists insist that it's not a moon, but a "transient moon", which "isn't a moon despite having moon in its name." Much the same as "dwarf planet". Which is a matter of perspective, really; our Moon will eventually get flung away from Earth as well. Its orbit increases about an inch or so every year, and might end up escaping before the Sun undergoes its transition of Red Giant. This might end up with another meeting about formal definitions that ends up causing people to get mad.

  13. After some more research, it has been determined that the cause of this explosion was actually toxic gases being emitted from Uranus.

  14. Isn't other planets names Latin? I mean we have Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune . The moons of other planets have names, they aren't moon 1, moon 2 ect.
    So do we call our home system Earth and its moon, instead of Terra and Luna?

  15. If we believe in the 'Bulk', this could be considered the birth of a new universe complete with its own cosmic horizon. Its growth could be linked to cosmic inflation.

  16. My thought is what happens when something explodes? Debris is sent in all direction! Big explosion, big debri possibly headed our way!!

  17. 1 minute, 6 seconds in and 😴. Not sure why, but this nerd is really good at putting me to sleep. I literally wear a hard hat whenever I watch his micro-cosmos videos..

  18. Just discovered biggest explosion ever ?

    I discovered the biggest explosion ever when I lost my virginity.

  19. That's just how I like my "biggest explosions ever detected"… so far away that you're not sure what you're looking at.

  20. It is way past time that the International Astronomy Association had a conference about what defines a moon the same way they decided to define planets and dwarf planets.
    A moon needs to have a permanent orbit of the host body and at least of a certain size. I'd argue that they have to be able to form a rough spheroid or they are just a moonlet. And if they are really small, under maybe 100km, certainly if they are under 10km in diameter; which would just allow Phobus and Damos to make the cut; then they are just satellite asteroids.

  21. Couple of questions please:
    1) What are scientists usually 'actually' looking for when they stumble across 'weird data' like the carved space?
    2) Wouldn't the electrons have given off a higher form of energy and we now see it as radio waves? Wasn't it something like 40 million light years away?

  22. 5 times as big doesn’t sound like a lot until you start thinking about how big the smaller explosion was.

  23. Thank God for young folks like this guy who are so into the science of of space and constant knowledge for the human race…

  24. Obviously, extraterrestrial species are not going to design a huge "LOOK AT ME!" device that gathers information like humans do.

  25. 0:50 it isn't 'shundra' like in shutter but 'chandra' like in cha cha cha. Chandrasekhar. 'chandra' means moon.

  26. If a mini-moon fell into orbit directly across from our main moon and traveled at the same speed, could it stick around?

  27. The explosion happened because who ever created us and this planet finally realized we are another one of their failures and they need to make a new galaxy and planet livable so they can start over again. We are probably version 9.6 anyways, so lets get started with version 10

  28. The creatures of far Ophiucus
    Have gleefully threatened to nuke us.
    If they do bomb us,
    I hope that they promise
    To sell the film rights to George Lucas.
    (F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre.)

    (No, seriously, FGM is the BEST SF poet ever, and it's a shame he's been forgotten.)

  29. Ophiuchus is Latin based, so pronounced Oh (like Oh boy) fi (rhymes with pie) uh (rhymes huh, duh) cuss (like cuss you out). I can see you looked it up and got the wrong pronunciation online. Can't trust those guys! When it sounds clumsy, it's suspect. Any terminology, ask a Latin teacher! Or an astronomer, in this case…

  30. I read somewhere the most huge star Bettelgeuse could explode in soon future , i bet this will be the big explosion ever !

  31. It would be really awesome if NASA out sooner type of device on mini moon so we can keep track of where it goes and collect data from it.

  32. Tom I hear you say radio data but …

    All we hear is radio ga ga
    Radio goo goo
    Radio ga ga
    All we hear is radio ga ga
    Radio blah blah
    Radio, what's new?
    Radio, someone still loves you

  33. 390 million light-years away? We're doomed, l tell you, doomed! I'd give us till next Thursday, if we're lucky.

  34. aliens may have gathered some of the gas for some reason… and we just missed them in the process of doing so… O_o

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