When it comes to space, we’re used to being presented with unimaginably large numbers that dwarf the achievements of human engineering. From the immense vacuum, to the gigantic feast of hydrogen that stars like the Sun consume every second. So finding an astronomical event that is big considering the context is, to say the least, fascinating. But these events do happen, and some during the temporary breath that is our life compared to the universe. So for the past 3 years, researchers at the University of Southhampton have been analyzing AT2021lwx, an ugly name for what appears to be the brightest explosion we’re aware of to date.
How to explode with glamor Novas and supernovae are probably the best known explosions of stellar bodies and they can occur in different ways. When a massive star reaches the end of its life and converts most of its fuel to iron and nickel, the balance between the force of gravity exerted by the mass of the star on its interior and the thrust generated by nuclear explosions is upset. . in its center. This break in equilibrium occurs when the nucleus crosses the Chandrasekhar limit and therefore cannot remain stable, but instead collapses under its own gravity. This collapse involves the emission of neutrons, neutrinos and other particles from the core to the outside, where they collide with the remains of the outer layers and eject them into space, where they will destroy everything in their path. Another way to produce supernovae is in binary systems, formed by two stars, in which one has finished its life as a white dwarf and the other is also in its final stages. If the white dwarf begins to “steal” material from the other star , it can become so massive that, like the previous form, it collapses in on itself. There are other possibilities too, including white dwarfs or other more exotic stars, but the result is similar: a big bang. In fact, there are records of several supernovae in various pieces of art, as well as a list of 4 confirmed historical supernovae between 1006 and 1604, in which it is believed that at least a couple could be observed from Earth in broad daylight.
even more shine But AT2021lwx far exceeds the brightness of these explosions, so astronomers have had to look for another explanation. Among the hypotheses being considered, the one that has gained the most strength is that it is a supermassive black hole that surrounds a gas cloud thousands of times more massive than our Sun. This finding was fortuitous, as Dr. Philip recounted in his own words. Wiseman, study leader: “We discovered it by chance, as our search algorithm picked it up when we were looking for a type of supernova.” And they began to study it further when they realized the importance of their finding: “Most supernovae and tidal disturbances only last a couple of months before they disappear. For something to shine for more than two years was immediately very unusual.”