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James Webb telescope finds origins of the biggest explosion since the Big Bang — revealing a new cosmological mystery




The James Webb Space Telescope has discovered the cause of the most powerful cosmic explosion since the Big Bang.

The explosion (nicknamed the BOAT or "brightest of all time") is a gaMMA-ray burst (GRB) that spat photons at Earth with more energy than those found inside the Large Hadron Collider. This light was detected by telescopes in orbit and on the ground on October 9, 2022, and came from 2.4 billion light-years away in the constellation Sagitta. 

Now, a team of scientists have tracked down BOAT's likely origins to a gigantic supernova that came after the collapse of a giant star. 

Yet their research reveals a new mystery — supernovas such as the one behind the BOAT are supposed to be cosmic factories for heavy elements such as platinum and gold, but when the researchers looked, they found no evidence for them. The scientists published their findings April 12 in the journal Nature Astronomy.

"When we confirmed that the GRB was generated by the collapse of a massive star, that gave us the opportunity to test a hypothesis for how some of the heaviest elements in the universe are formed," lead study author Peter Blanchard, an astrophysicist at Northwestern University, said in a statement. "We did not see signatures of these heavy elements, suggesting that extremely energetic GRBs like the BOAT do not produce these elements.

“That doesn't mean that all GRBs do not produce them,” Blanchard added, “but it's a key piece of information as we continue to understand where these heavy elements come from."

Related: James Webb telescope confirms there is something seriously wrong with our understanding of the universe