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A black hole is completely black — it produces no energy at all. Yet its birth may be among the brightest events in the universe. In fact, astronomers saw such an outburst on October 9th, and it was astonishing. One astronomer tweeted that it was “stupidly really bright.” And a group of astronomers nicknamed it the BOAT — Brightest of All Time.
The event was a gamma-ray burst — a flare of the most powerful form of energy. It came from a galaxy about 2.4 billion light-years away. The galaxy is especially dusty, suggesting that it’s giving birth to a lot of new stars.
Some of those stars are especially hot and massive. They burn out in just a few million years, then explode. The extreme conditions inside the exploding star create jets of X-rays and gamma-rays. They tunnel out through the star’s poles, then beam into space. And that’s what astronomers say probably happened with the October 9th event.
If Earth aligns along one of those beams, we see it as a gamma-ray burst. We also feel it. It zapped Earth’s upper atmosphere, interfering with some radio communications. It even created mild electric currents in the ground.
Astronomers continue to keep an eye on the object as it fades away. They’re not sure just how bright it was. But they estimate that, in a few seconds, it produced a thousand to ten thousand times as much energy as the Sun will generate in its entire lifetime — making the outburst the BOAT: the brightest of all time.
Script by Damond Benningfield