For most of us, the brightest object we’ll ever see is our Sun.
Delivering nearly 130,000 lumens per square meter to Earth, no other astronomical source compares.
But it’s not particularly intrinsically luminous; it’s simply nearby.
Massive, young, blue stars can shine millions of times as bright.
During stellar cataclysms, like supernovae, dying stars can achieve ~ten billion solar luminosities.
But some supernovae achieve — albeit temporarily — even greater brightnesses.
During their final stages, stellar interiors get so hot that photons spontaneously produce electron-positron pairs.
This matter-antimatter conversion triggers a superluminous pair-instability supernova.
Cocooned, detonating stars and remnants can outshine them, albeit temporarily.
But collimated jets emitted from hypernova events — already brilliantly luminous supernovae — outshine them all.
Fast rotations and magnetic fields collimate material, creating ultrarelativistic motions.
They illuminate and ionize the surrounding particles, producing extremely energetic photons.
On October 9, 2022, a brilliant gamma-ray burst arrived at Earth.
At ~2 billion light-years distant, it’s an especially close, bright cataclysm.
But it hasn’t outshone the current record-holder.
2008’s GRB 080319B peaked at 21 quadrillion times the Sun’s brightness.
Only merging black holes release greater energies.
Peaking at over 1049 Watts, they overpower all stars combined over millisecond timescales.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.