Slim Boom. Credit: Phil Drury, University of Sheffield
An explosion the size of our solar system has baffled scientists, as part of its shape—similar to that of an extremely flat disk—challenges everything we know about explosions in space.
The explosion observed was a bright Fast Blue Optical Transient (FBOT)—an extremely rare class of explosion which is much less common than other explosions, such as supernovas. The first bright FBOT was discovered in 2018 and given the nickname “the cow.”
Explosions of stars in the universe are almost always spherical in shape, as the stars themselves are spherical. However, this explosion, which occurred 180 million light years away, is the most aspherical ever seen in space, with a shape like a disk emerging a few days after it was discovered. This section of the explosion may have come from material shed by the star just before it exploded.
It’s still unclear how bright FBOT explosions occur, but it’s hoped that this observation, published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, will bring us closer to understanding them.