Astronomers have observed the effect of a colossal explosion, the most energetic known since the very beginning of the universe, and at least five times more powerful than the previous record holder. The culprit of this prodigious kaboom is the supermassive black hole at the core of the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster, about 390 million light-years from Earth.

The study is published in The Astrophysical Journal and the ArXiv preprint can be read for free here.

The explosion has left a cavity that could fit 15 Milky Ways side to side within it, so you know it was big. It released 5×1054 Joules, and, I’m not going to lie, I’m a physicist and I can barely comprehend just how much that is. So here’s a bit of a comparison for you.. with other extremely energetic things.

The Ophiuchus cluster explosion released the energy of 15 billion ASASSN-15lh, the most powerful hypernova ever detected. 42 billion times the energy that the Sun will release in its entire lifetime. so that’s a star like the Sun shining for 420 billion billion years. Truly blaze it 420!

It would take converting about one trillion Earths into pure energy to match it, or about 200 trillion Moons worth of matter-antimatter annihilation. If these comparisons are still too mind-blowing for you, here’s another probably unhelpful one: consider that the eruption had about 5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times the energy of a small apple falling from a table. That would certainly keep doctor away!

Image Credit: X-ray: Chandra: NASA/CXC/NRL/S. Giacintucci, et al., XMM-Newton: ESA/XMM-Newton; Radio: NCRA/TIFR/GMRT; Infrared: 2MASS/UMass/IPAC-Caltech/NASA/NSF
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