Biggest boom ever detected hit the Earth in January

An explosion that let off as much energy in a few seconds as the Sun will in its entire lifetime has been detected in a faraway galaxy.

Astronomers got the surprise of their lives in January when a gamma ray burst originating from a galaxy 7 billion light-years away hit two satellites.

Within seconds, astronomers around the world turned their telescopes to look at it.

"The telescopes were able to observe the burst within 50 seconds of it appearing in the sky," said Razmik Mirzoyan, who operates the twin Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov (MAGIC) telescopes in the Canary Islands.

They immediately picked up light particles carrying as much energy as released by the atom-smashing Large Hadron Collider in Europe. 

"It's a trillion times more energetic than visible light," said Gemma Anderson from Curtin University's International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, who led a study into the explosion involving more than 300 scientists from around the globe.

GRB 190114C, as it's been dubbed, is the biggest boom ever detected.

"They are likely produced by a massive star being blown apart in a supernova, with the resulting explosion leaving behind a black hole," said Dr Anderson.

"A typical burst releases as much energy in a few seconds as the Sun will in its entire 10 billion-year lifetime."

Smaller gamma ray bursts happen about once a day, she said, always without warning. 

January's burst was about 10 times stronger than a record-breaking burst detected in 2013 from an explosion about 4 billion light-years away.

The findings were published in journal Nature.