NASA discovers the largest explosion ever recorded in space

Although there are differences between all of us, there is one common denominator that has prevailed for all of humanity: We are all perched on a rock, flying through outer space at over a million miles per hour.

Thanks to the rapid advancement of technology in the last century, we can observe a lot more of the universe than we thought possible.

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

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

Gamma Ray Burst breaks the old record

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

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

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

Screenshot of GRB221009A’s afterglow from the Swift X-ray Telescope showing X-rays scattered in the direction of the explosion.

Image source: NASA/Swift/A. Birdmore (University of Leicester)

Although it was discovered less than a week ago, NASA said it actually happened more than two billion years ago, and the ancient light emitted from it is now only reaching Earth. The explosion, detected by NASA’s telescope for more than 10 hours, came at a sudden serendipitous moment, the start of the 10th Fermi Symposium, an event hosting gamma-ray astronomers.

Jodi Rakusen, Fermi’s deputy project scientist who attended the conference, told NASA that the explosion set off an exciting start to the event.

“It’s safe to say that this meeting really started with a bang – everyone is talking about this,” she said.

The light from GRB221009A was so bright that many gamma-ray detectors were temporarily blinded. A gamma-ray burst emits more energy in one second than our Sun will produce in its lifetime of more than 10 billion years.

NASA/Swift/B.  Senko

The capture from the Swift Telescope captured in the visible spectrum shows the GRB’s post-aurora fading over the course of 10 hours.

NASA/Swift/B. Senko

Despite occurring 2 billion light-years away, the GRB was relatively close compared to the distance of previous eruptions, giving astronomers a rare opportunity to observe and study such a massive release of energy.

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

“We believe this is a once-in-a-century opportunity to address some of the fundamental questions related to these eruptions, from the formation of black holes to tests of dark matter models,” he said.

The current NASA hypothesis is that the origin of the GRB was the collapse of a massive star, which then led to a supernova explosion, eventually giving birth to a supermassive black hole.


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

Astronomers’ excitement with the GRB has not ended, because they now also have a rare opportunity to study the afterglow of the eruption, which is expected to continue to shine for several months.

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