Astronomers discover new type of cosmic explosion

Astronomers discover new type of cosmic explosion
Artist's impression of a supermassive black hole. Credit: University of Southampton

An international team of astronomers, including a University of Southampton expert, has discovered a new type of explosion in a distant galaxy.

The explosion, called PS1-10adi, seems to prefer active galaxies that house consuming the gas and material around them.

Using telescopes on La Palma and Hawaii, the team detected an explosion that was so energetic it must have originated from one of two sources: an extremely massive star – up to several hundred times more massive than our Sun – exploding as a supernova, or from a lower mass star that has been shredded by the ultra-strong gravitational forces close to the supermassive black hole.

The explosion – detailed in a study published in Nature Astronomy – occurred 2.4 billion years ago, but the enormous distance that light from the event had to travel to reach Earth meant it wasn't observed by astronomers until 2010. The slow evolution of the allowed scientists to monitor it for several years.

Dr Cosimo Inserra, of the University of Southampton, was involved in the analysis of data and helped identify the only two possible scenarios that could explain the event. He also tested the data using established physical supernova models to support the results.

He commented: "The discovery we made has revealed explosions capable of releasing an amount of energy ten times bigger than normal explosions.

"Our data show that events like this are not very unusual and challenge our knowledge of exploding and disrupting .

"At the same time, their existence provides us with important information about the extreme environment in the central, hidden, part of galaxies."

Lead author Dr Erkki Kankare, of Queen's University Belfast, added: "If these explosions are tidal disruption events – where a star gets sufficiently close to a supermassive black hole's event horizon and is shredded by the strong gravitational forces – then its properties are such that it would be a brand new type of tidal disruption event.

"If they are supernova explosions then their properties are more extreme than we have ever observed before, and are likely connected to the central environments of the host ."

The international team included research institutes from Finland, Sweden, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Chile, and the US.

Explore further

Spinning black hole swallowing star explains superluminous event

More information: E. Kankare et al. A population of highly energetic transient events in the centres of active galaxies, Nature Astronomy (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41550-017-0290-2
Journal information: Nature Astronomy

Citation: Astronomers discover new type of cosmic explosion (2017, November 15) retrieved 13 October 2019 from
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Nov 15, 2017
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Nov 15, 2017
C_R, I think you're stretching a simile here into a rictus of a smile.

However, I will leave it to others more knowledgeable about the involved sciences to dispute the probability of your speculations.

I want to point out, on behalf of the emergency respondents to the San Bruno disaster. That in the midst of all that chaos. The firefighters, paramedics and police were mostly likely concerned that the explosion had been a meth-lab or some idiot alt-right playing with explosives.

So give'm a break. When all hell breaks loose? Fear is a smart response. It's easy to criticize from a safe distance, assuming that maybe you have gathered all the facts.

Nov 16, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Nov 16, 2017
@chris/hannes the pseudoscience eu idiot
An hour is not a long time
that really depends on what line of work you're in and what you're doing
To be clear, this was not a critique of firefighters
thanks for clearing that up [sarc]

you can't anyway because much like science, you've no actual skill, ability, knowledge or experience in the area making any critique you make null and void or based upon delusional beliefs that aren't supported by reality

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