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VIDEO: Spectacular Animation Of Biggest Bang Ever Seen

"Astronomers call it the monster," The Associated Press says. "It was the biggest and brightest cosmic explosion ever witnessed. Had it been closer, Earth would have been toast."

Caught by orbiting telescopes last spring, the gamma ray burst in a galaxy 3.7 billion light-years away was "a once-in-a-century cosmic event," NASA astrophysics chief Paul Hertz said Thursday.

Those bursts, the space agency writes:

"Are the most luminous explosions in the cosmos, thought to be triggered when the core of a massive star runs out of nuclear fuel, collapses under its own weight, and forms a black hole. The black hole then drives jets of particles that drill all the way through the collapsing star and erupt into space at nearly the speed of light."

Now NASA has produced a video to help us all get a sense of what that big bang might have looked like.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.