Astronomers detect biggest explosion in the history of the universe

Caption This extremely powerful eruption occurred in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster, which is located about 390 million light-years from Earth. Galaxy clusters are the largest structures in the Universe held together by gravity, containing thousands of individual galaxies, dark matter, and hot gas. Credit X-ray: NASA/CXC/Naval Research Lab/Giacintucci, S.; XMM:ESA/XMM; Radio: NCRA/TIFR/GMRTN; Infrared: 2MASS/UMass/IPAC-Caltech/NASA/NSFCaption This extremely powerful eruption occurred in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster, which is located about 390 million light-years from Earth. Galaxy clusters are the largest structures in the Universe held together by gravity, containing thousands of individual galaxies, dark matter, and hot gas. Credit X-ray: NASA/CXC/Naval Research Lab/Giacintucci, S.; XMM:ESA/XMM; Radio: NCRA/TIFR/GMRTN; Infrared: 2MASS/UMass/IPAC-Caltech/NASA/NSF

This extremely powerful eruption occurred in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster, which is located about 390 million light-years from Earth. Galaxy clusters are the largest structures in the Universe held together by gravity, containing thousands of individual galaxies, dark matter, and hot gas. Credit X-ray: NASA/CXC/Naval Research Lab/Giacintucci, S.; XMM:ESA/XMM; Radio: NCRA/TIFR/GMRTN; Infrared: 2MASS/UMass/IPAC-Caltech/NASA/NSF

Scientists studying a distant galaxy cluster have discovered the biggest explosion seen in the Universe since the Big Bang.

The blast came from a supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy hundreds of millions of light-years away.

It released five times more energy than the previous record holder.

Professor Melanie Johnston-Hollitt, from the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, said the event was extraordinarily energetic.

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

“And 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.”

The explosion occurred in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster, about 390 million light-years from Earth.

It was so powerful it punched a cavity in the cluster plasma–the super-hot gas surrounding the black hole.

Lead author of the study Dr Simona Giacintucci, from the Naval Research Laboratory in the United States, said the blast was similar to the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, which ripped the top off the mountain.

“The difference is that you could fit 15 Milky Way galaxies in a row into the crater this eruption punched into the cluster’s hot gas,” she said.

Professor Johnston-Hollitt said the cavity in the cluster plasma had been seen previously with X-ray telescopes.

But scientists initially dismissed the idea that it could have been caused by an energetic outburst, because it would have been too big.

“People were sceptical because the size of outburst,” she said. “But it really is that. The Universe is a weird place.”

The researchers only realised what they had discovered when they looked at the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster with radio telescopes.

“The radio data fit inside the X-rays like a hand in a glove,” said co-author Dr Maxim Markevitch, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

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

The discovery was made using four telescopes; NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, ESA’s XMM-Newton, the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) in Western Australia and the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) in India.

Professor Johnston-Hollitt, who is the director of the MWA and an expert in galaxy clusters, likened the finding to discovering the first dinosaur bones.

“It’s a bit like archaeology,” she said.

“We’ve been given the tools to dig deeper with low frequency radio telescopes so we should be able to find more outbursts like this now.”

The finding underscores the importance of studying the Universe at different wavelengths, Professor Johnston-Hollitt said.

“Going back and doing a multi-wavelength study has really made the difference here,” she said.

Professor Johnston-Hollitt said the finding is likely to be the first of many.

“We made this discovery with Phase 1 of the MWA, when the telescope had 2048 antennas pointed towards the sky,” she said.

“We’re soon going to be gathering observations with 4096 antennas, which should be ten times more sensitive.”

“I think that’s pretty exciting.”




The International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) is a joint venture between Curtin University and The University of Western Australia with support and funding from the State Government of Western Australia.


The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) is a low-frequency radio telescope and is the first of four Square Kilometre Array (SKA) precursors to be completed. A consortium of partner institutions from seven countries (Australia, USA, India, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, and China) financed the development, construction, commissioning, and operations of the facility. The MWA consortium is led by Curtin University.


‘Discovery of a giant radio fossil in the Ophiuchus Galaxy Cluster’, published in The Astrophysical Journal on February 27th, 2020.


Available from

From EurekAlert!

via Watts Up With That?

February 28, 2020 at 04:40PM

Freeman Dyson, World-Renowned Physicist & GWPF Founding Member, Has Died Aged 96

Freeman Dyson, one of the world’s most eminent theoretical physicists, has died aged 96. 

Born in England on 15 December 1923, Freeman Dyson graduated from Cambridge University in 1945 with a BA in mathematics. In 1947, he moved to the USA where he went to work at Cornell University and, later, at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Professor Dyson was a dedicated supporter of the GWPF and a founding member of the GWPF’s Academic Advisory Council.

Freeman Dyson (centre) visits the GWPF in London in 2012. Lord Lawson (right) and Benny Peiser (left)

Freeman Dyson: Scientific Dogmatism Still Alive

Foreword to Indur Goklany’s new GWPF report Carbon Dioxide: The Good News

Indur Goklany has done a careful job, collecting and documenting the evidence that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does far more good than harm. To any unprejudiced person reading this account, the facts should be obvious: that the non-climatic effects of carbon dioxide as a sustainer of wildlife and crop plants are enormously beneficial, that the possibly harmful climatic effects of carbon dioxide have been greatly exaggerated, and that the benefits clearly outweigh the possible damage.

I consider myself an unprejudiced person and to me these facts are obvious. But the same facts are not obvious to the majority of scientists and politicians who consider carbon dioxide to be evil and dangerous. The people who are supposed to be experts and who claim to understand the science are precisely the people who are blind to the evidence. Those of my scientific colleagues who believe the prevailing dogma about carbon dioxide will not find Goklany’s evidence convincing. I hope that a few of them will make the effort to examine the evidence in detail and see how it contradicts the prevailing dogma, but I know that the majority will remain blind.  That is to me the central mystery of climate science. It is not a scientific mystery but a human mystery. How does it happen that a whole generation of scientific experts is blind to obvious facts? In this foreword I offer a tentative solution of the mystery.

There are many examples in the history of science of irrational beliefs promoted by famous thinkers and adopted by loyal disciples. Sometimes, as in the use of bleeding as a treatment for various diseases, irrational belief did harm to a large number of human victims. George Washington was one of the victims. Other irrational beliefs, such as the phlogiston theory of burning or the Aristotelian cosmology of circular celestial motions, only did harm by delaying the careful examination of nature. In all these cases, we see a community of people happily united in a false belief that brought leaders and followers together. Anyone who questioned the prevailing belief would upset the peace of the community.

Real advances in science require a different cultural tradition, with individuals who invent new tools to explore nature and are not afraid to question authority. Science driven by rebels and heretics searching for truth has made great progress in the last three centuries. But the new culture of scientific scepticism is a recent growth and has not yet penetrated deeply into our thinking. The old culture of group loyalty and dogmatic belief is still alive under the surface, guiding the thoughts of scientists as well as the opinions of ordinary citizens.

To understand human behavior, I look at human evolution. About a hundred thousand years ago, our species invented a new kind of evolution. In addition to biological evolution based on genetic changes, we began a cultural evolution based on social and intellectual changes. Biological evolution did not stop, but cultural evolution was much faster and quickly became dominant. Social customs and beliefs change and spread much more rapidly than genes.

Cultural evolution was enabled by spoken languages and tribal loyalties. Tribe competed with tribe and culture with culture. The cultures that prevailed were those that promoted tribal cohesion. Humans were always social animals, and culture made us even more social. We evolved to feel at home in a group that thinks alike. It was more important for a group of humans to be united than to be right. It was always dangerous and usually undesirable to question authority. When authority was seriously threatened, heretics were burned at the stake.

I am suggesting that the thinking of politicians and scientists about controversial issues today is still tribal. Science and politics are not essentially different from other aspects of human culture. Science and politics are products of cultural evolution. Thinking about scientific questions is still presented to the public as a competitive sport with winners and losers. For players of the sport with public reputations to defend, it is more important to belong to a winning team than to examine the evidence.  Cultural evolution was centered for a hundred thousand years on tales told by elders to children sitting around the cave fire. That cave-fire evolution gave us brains that are wonderfully sensitive to fable and fantasy, but insensitive to facts and figures. To enable a tribe to prevail in the harsh world of predators and prey, it was helpful to have brains with strong emotional bonding to shared songs and stories. It was not helpful to have brains questioning whether the stories were true. Our scientists and politicians of the modern age evolved recently from the cave-children. They still, as Charles Darwin remarked about human beings in general, bear the indelible stamp of their lowly origin.

In the year 1978, the United States Department of Energy drew up a ‘Comprehensive Plan for Carbon Dioxide Effects Research and Assessment’, which fixed the agenda of official discussions of carbon dioxide for the next 37 years. I wrote in a memorandum protesting against the plan:

The direct effects of carbon dioxide increase on plant growth and interspecific competition receive little attention. The plan is drawn up as if climatic change were the only serious effect of carbon dioxide on human activities. . .In a comparison of the non-climatic with the climatic effects of carbon dioxide, the nonclimatic effects may be: 

1. more certain,

2. more immediate,
3. easier to observe,
4. potentially at least as serious.

… Our research plan should address these issues directly, not as a mere side-line to climatic studies.

My protest received no attention and the Comprehensive Plan prevailed. As a result, the public perception of carbon dioxide has been dominated by the computer climate-model experts who designed the plan. The tribal group-thinking of that group of experts was amplified and reinforced by a supportive political bureaucracy.

Indur Goklany has assembled a massive collection of evidence to demonstrate two facts. First, the non-climatic effects of carbon dioxide are dominant over the climatic effects and are overwhelmingly beneficial. Second, the climatic effects observed in the real world are much less damaging than the effects predicted by the climate models, and have also been frequently beneficial. I am hoping that the scientists and politicians who have been blindly demonizing carbon dioxide for 37 years will one day open their eyes and look at the evidence. Goklany and I do not claim to be infallible. Like the climate-model experts, we have also evolved recently from the culture of the cave-children. Like them, we have inherited our own set of prejudices and blindnesses. Truth emerges when different groups of explorers listen to each other’s stories and correct each other’s mistakes.

Princeton – September 2015

Freeman Dyson FRS, a world-renowned theoretical physicist, is Professor Emeritus of Mathematical Physics and Astrophysics at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton where he held a chair for many years. Dyson is the author of numerous widely read science books. He is a member of the GWPF’s Academic Advisory Council.

The post Freeman Dyson, World-Renowned Physicist & GWPF Founding Member, Has Died Aged 96 appeared first on The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF).

via The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF)

February 28, 2020 at 01:17PM

La Nina may form in the equatorial Pacific Ocean later this year and, if so, it could have wide-ranging ramifications

By Paul Dorian


NOAA’s CFS v2 computer forecast model is predicting relatively strong La Nina conditions by later this summer (August/September/October); SST anomalies plot courtesy NOAA

*La Nina may form in the equatorial Pacific Ocean later this year and, if so, it could have wide-ranging ramifications*


It appears somewhat likely that the current weak El Nino in the equatorial part of the central Pacific Ocean will transition into La Nina conditions later this summer.  La Nina is a naturally occurring oceanic cycle that produces colder-than-normal sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the tropical Pacific Ocean whereas El Nino is associated with warmer-than-normal water. If indeed La Nina forms later this year, it could have ramifications on the upcoming Atlantic Basin tropical season, prospects for drought in California, and potentially on global temperatures in the lower atmosphere.


The plot shows forecasts made by dynamical and statistical models for sea surface temperatures (SST) anomalies in the “Nino 3.4” region for nine overlapping 3-month periods. Note that the expected skills of the models, based on historical performance, are not equal to one another. The skills also generally decrease as the lead time increases. Thirdly, forecasts made at some times of the year generally have higher skill than forecasts made at other times of the year–namely, they are better when made between June and December than when they are made between February and May. Differences among the forecasts of the models reflect both differences in model design, and actual uncertainty in the forecast of the possible future SST scenario.

Computer model forecasts generally support the formation of La Nina

Several independently-made computer forecast models support the idea of a change in the central part of the tropical Pacific Ocean from the current weak El Nino to La Nina conditions by the summer of 2020.  The plume of El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) model forecasts from mid-February indicate a transition to La Nina conditions are likely to take hold by later this summer.  Indeed, some models (e.g., NOAA’s CFS v2) are predicting a fairly strong La Nina by the end of the summer season with sea surface temperatures as much as 1.5°C below-normal in the “Nino 3.4” region (i.e., central tropical Pacific Ocean).


Warm (red) and cold (blue) periods based on a threshold of +/- 0.5°C for the Oceanic Niño Index (ONI) [3 month running mean of ERSST.v5 SST anomalies in the “Niño 3.4” region (50°N-50°S, 120°-170°W)], based on centered 30-year base periods updated every 5 years.

Possible impact on the 2020 Atlantic Basin tropical season

One of the surprising side benefits of an El Nino event in the tropical Pacific Ocean is that this type of sea surface temperature pattern (i.e., warmer-than-normal) tends to result in less tropical activity in the Atlantic Basin when compared to normal.  This tendency for reduced tropical activity in the Atlantic Basin is a result of higher-than-normal vertical wind shear in the breeding grounds region of the Atlantic Ocean during El Nino events. Higher-than-normal vertical wind shear tends to inhibit the formation or intensification of tropical systems.

On the contrary, La Nina is often associated with a more active Atlantic Basin tropical season as overall vertical wind shear is usually on the low side in the breeding grounds region. The last time there was a relatively strong La Nina event during the tropical season in the Atlantic Basin was in the year 2010. This particular year saw La Nina-induced sea surface temperature anomalies as low as -1.7°C in the central part of the equatorial Pacific and there was anomalously low vertical wind shear in the tropical Atlantic. As it turned out, the 2010 Atlantic tropical season was the first in a group of three very active seasons. It is tied alongside 1887, 1995, 2011, and 2012 for the third-most active Atlantic tropical season on record, with 19 tropical storms, only behind the 1933 and the 2005 seasons.


University of Alabama-Huntsville (UAH) satellite-based temperature data of the global lower atmosphere from 1979 to the present. Several El Nino episodes in the past couple of decades were associated with spikes in global temperatures and La Nina usually resulted in a drop in temperatures. Data courtesy UAH, Dr. Roy Spencer

Potential impact on global temperatures

What goes on in the Pacific Ocean in terms of sea surface temperatures can indeed have an impact around the world with respect to global temperatures in the lower part of the atmosphere.  If indeed a La Nina does form later this year in the tropical Pacific Ocean and it is relatively strong and long-lasting, it can result in a drop of global temperatures after it becomes well-established. In recent years, the number of El Nino episodes have surpassed the number of La Nina events and global temperatures have often reacted with noticeable spikes (see UAH data temperature plot).  For example, the strong El Nino events that centered on the years of 1997/1998, 2009/2010 and 2015/2016 were associated with sharp upticks in lower atmosphere global temperatures. In times of La Nina such as during 2007/2008 and 2010/2011, there have been noticeable downturns in global temperatures of the lower atmosphere.


Drought conditions have worsened across California during the past few week; map courtesy NOAA

California drought

After a long period with severe drought conditions dominating the scene in California, the winter season of 2018-2019 brought significant rainfall to the state and incredible amounts of snow piled up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In fact, the drought was officially declared over by the time spring season began last year. In subsequent months, there have been spurts of dry weather across California, but drought conditions did not really become persistent until a few weeks ago. Contrary to the winter of 2018-2019, this winter season has been rather dry across California and the amount of snow that has fallen in the Sierra Mountain range of eastern California has been below-normal. This reduction of snowfall in the higher elevation locations could very well lead to some problems later this summer as a melting snow pack is an important contributor of water for the state.

In terms of what kind of an impact La Nina conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean could have on California’s weather, the results are rather mixed. La Nina tends to create a looping jet stream centered around high pressure in the Pacific Ocean. If the high pressure system anchors around the international dateline, La Nina tends to bring wetter weather to North America. However, if it centers itself in the eastern Pacific Ocean, it tends to bring drier weather. Finally, if the high pressure system meanders around, the results are often periods of wet and dry weather.

Stay tuned…we’ll continue to monitor the prospects for La Nina as we close in on the tropical season in the Atlantic Basin and certainly nothing is set in stone when it comes to long-range model forecasting of sea surface temperatures.

Meteorologist Paul Dorian
Perspecta, Inc.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube

via Watts Up With That?

February 28, 2020 at 12:58PM

Julia Leaves Greenie Speechless!

By Paul Homewood


h/t Teaef



Julia Hartley Brewer leaves the Green Party spokeswoman speechless!






The question that the greenie had trouble answering, how much of UK’s energy comes from wind and solar is a paltry 4% (and that includes hydro!):




February 28, 2020 at 12:51PM