If astronomy is not all Greek to you, surely you’ve heard about the Big Bang. And perhaps that’s the event that first popped into your mind when you read the title of this article. Unfortunately for the world, scientists didn’t observe that event that took place billions of years ago. Another cosmic explosion is the star of the show today.
The moniker AT2021lwx might sound like the name of a newfound asteroid to you. It’s actually the name of a newly-observed cosmic explosion that left astronomers speechless and for good reasons. They are still puzzled by the event.
AT2021lwx is 100 times the size of our Solar System
The AT2021lwx event began blazing in the Universe over 3 years ago. ScienceAlert tells us more about it. The cosmic explosion in question was 100 times larger than our Solar System. Since our Solar System measures 287.46 billion km, you can easily do the math for yourself by adding two zeros to that number.
BOAT (Brightest Of All Time), a gamma-ray burst, remains the brightest flash in the Cosmos, but it’s not larger than AT2021lwx.
A team of astronomers led by researchers at @unisouthampton have discovered the largest cosmic explosion ever witnessed. 💥
Known as AT2021lwx, it is more than 10x brighter than any known supernova. The research is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. pic.twitter.com/LWaX4mbuWx
— Royal Astronomical Society (@RoyalAstroSoc) May 12, 2023
The million-dollar question arises: what exactly is the AT2021lwx cosmic explosion? An international team of researchers presented their theory. They believe that a colossal gas cloud, which is about 5,000 times larger than the Sun, is gradually getting consumed by a supermassive black hole. However, the researchers admit the inherent uncertainty in scientific pursuits, and they are actively engaged in developing new simulations to determine the plausibility of their idea. One potential challenge lies in the fact that supermassive black holes are typically positioned at the center of galaxies, which implies that an explosion of this magnitude would correspond to a galaxy on a scale comparable to the Milky Way. Curiously, no galaxy has been detected in the vicinity of AT2021lwx, which again leaves astronomers perplexed. Equipped with this newfound understanding, astronomers are diligently scanning the celestial expanse in search of similar overlooked cosmic explosions.
The new study was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.