Biggest ever explosion in the universe punches hole in space

Astronomers have spotted a humungous explosion in the universe that is thought to be the biggest ever seen by humans.

The huge blast happened in the Ophiuchus cluster, which is a whopping 390 million light-years away from Earth, according to the Astrophysical Journal.

Experts believe the explosion was a black hole in one of the galaxies of the cluster, which are huge structures of thousands of individual galaxies that are held together by gravity.

Simona Giacintucci, the lead author of the study at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC, described the explosion as like a volcano erupting.

"In some ways, this blast is similar to how the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980 ripped off the top of the mountain," she said.

"A key difference is that you could fit fifteen Milky Way galaxies in a row into the crater this eruption punched into the cluster's hot gas."

Study co-author Maxim Markevitch, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, added: "The radio data fit inside the X-rays like a hand in a glove.

"This is the clincher that tells us an eruption of unprecedented size occurred here."

Black holes are normally quiet and invisible, but when material is falling into them they can "blaze with radiation".

During this period, it sucks up plasma from the cluster until it's full, which is then followed by a huge outburst where it shoots out jets of plasma.

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Professor Melanie Johnston-Hollitt, the lead author on the paper described this one as "extraordinarily energetic".

"We've seen outbursts in the centres of galaxies before but this one is really, really massive," she said.

"We don't know why it's so big but it happened very slowly like an explosion in slow motion that took place over hundreds of millions of years."

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