A black hole punched a hole 15 Milky Ways across in a galaxy cluster’s gas, by far the largest ‘kaboom’ ever seen.
The Universe, everywhere we look, is full of cataclysmic events and transient outbursts.
They come in all sorts of varieties, from supernovae to black holes to merger events and more.
Whether in light, particles, or gravitational waves, energy output is the great comparator.
Supernovae release up to 10⁴⁴ joules (J) of energy: totaling the Sun’s entire lifetime output.
LIGO’s black hole mergers were even more energetic: up to ~10⁴⁷ J.
But the most extreme, energetic outbursts arise from jets emitted by supermassive black holes.
Accreted matter gets accelerated by these behemoths, ejecting particles all the way into intergalactic space.
Smashing into the surrounding gas and plasma, they can carve cavities that span millions of light-years.
The most extreme one ever was just discovered in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster, 390 million light-years away.
NASA’s Chandra X-ray telescope found an enormous source of X-rays there, 15 times our galaxy’s diameter.
Combined with infrared and radio observations, an enormous cavity emerges.
It was carved by an ancient, explosive, supermassive black hole outburst, requiring 5 × 10⁵⁴ J of energy.
A more distant, energetic event likely awaits discovery via ESA’s Athena or NASA’s Lynx.
Only supermassive black hole mergers, hitherto unseen, may surpass them.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.Ethan Siegel is the author of Beyond the Galaxy and Treknology. You can pre-order his third book, currently in development: the Encyclopaedia Cosmologica.