US researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology- MIT observed a huge outburst with a force equivalent to about 1038 nuclear bombs at 15 billion light-years from Earth.
The researchers announced their findings in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. In a report published on MIT's website, the researchers said the outburst took place in a galaxy cluster named SPT-0528 creating two large cavities 180 degrees from each other.
Although the outburst happened millions of years ago, the researchers managed to calculate its total energy by combining the volume and pressure of the displaced gas with the age of the two cavities (250 million years).
Lead author Michael Calzadilla said, "at greater than 1054 joules of energy, a force equivalent to about 1038 nuclear bombs, this is the most powerful outburst reported in a distant galaxy cluster."
The universe is dotted with galaxy clusters similar to SPT-0528, and at the center of each cluster is a black hole, which goes through periods of feeding, where it gobbles up plasma from the cluster, followed by periods of explosive outburst, where it shoots out jets of plasma once it has reached its fill.
"This outburst happened billions of years ago before our solar system had even formed, it took around 6.7 billion years for light from the galaxy cluster to travel all the way to Chandra, NASA's X-ray emissions observatory that orbits Earth," explained Calzadilla. Chandra is a probe orbiting the Earth, launched by NASA on July 23, 1999, to measure X-rays produced by the celestial bodies.
Calzadilla likened the findings to that of a paleontologist trying to reconstruct the evolution of an extinct animal from a sparse fossil record.
"But, instead of bones, we study galaxy clusters to know how their characteristics have changed over the years," he added.