The explosion was heralded by the arrival on January 23, 1999, of a strong pulse of cosmic "gamma" rays, highly energized subatomic particles. Hubble operators found the source of the rays 17 days later, and took these images.
|There are in the cosmos fundamental physical reactions that science knows very little about.|
The blast itself occurred about 10 billion years ago in a galaxy that is now about two-thirds of the way to the horizon of the observable universe. Ten billion years later, the gamma rays loosed by this event remained strong enough to set detectors ringing in laboratories all over the world.
What could have caused such an explosion? Theories include collisions between black holes or a "hypernova," a theorized star detonation much more powerful than a supernova. But scientists admit they have no idea how even black-hole collisions or supernovas could generate the power of 100 million galaxies. That one point in space can release such energy lends credence to the Big Bang theory, which calls for amazing power output from one place. But until the underlying phenomenon can be explained, this blast from the past also shows that there are in the cosmos fundamental physical reactions that science knows very little about.