Cosmic ‘ghost particle’ traced offering new ‘window on the universe’

15 July, 2018, 17:54 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • IceCube Observatory at night

The event was also extremely hard to grasp: a neutrino - one of those enigmatic elementary particles that haunt the earth as part of cosmic radiation - has been tracked down with the help of an elaborate experiment. However, the source of high-energy neutrinos has remained unproven. "These very high energy neutrinos are more likely to interact" with matter, she said, "but they deposit so much energy in a detector that in order to contain and detect all that energy, the detector has to be very large". Blazar is an active galaxy with twin jets of light that shoot laser beams from the poles on the axis of the black hole's rotation.

As explained by a former IceCube spokesperson Olga Botner at a National Science Foundation press conference on this discovery on Thursday the observatory constitute a billion tons of ice, that may contain 100 undecillion atoms. Soon after, ground- and space-based telescopes looked for the source of that single neutrino.

Julian Osborne at the University of Leicester was part of a team that used Nasa's Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory to confirm the flaring blazar.

Backtracking the path through IceCube indicated where in the sky the neutrino came from, and automated alerts notified astronomers around the globe to search this region for flares or outbursts that could be associated with the event. Just a tiny fraction of neutrinos will run into anything on Earth, but scientists just detected one from outside our galaxy for the first time ever.

"Now that we've identified a real source, we'll be able to focus in on other objects like this one to understand more about these extreme events billions of years ago which set these particles racing towards our planet", Hill said.

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What is the difference between neutrinos and cosmic rays? This attribute makes tracing their paths back to their points of origin impossible, as the magnetic fields that fill space affect them, altering their trajectories.

Reports of the discovery were published yesterday, July 13 in Science journal, representing a first-of-its-kind discovery, and letting scientists uncover mysteries of neutrinos.

"The era of multi-messenger astrophysics is here".

"This whole project is an interesting mix of scientists whose work together began through things like the IceCube Alerts and Astronomer's Telegrams, and progressed to an impressive collaboration of facilities working together on one paper", said Sivakoff. Concurrently, the Swift and HESS instruments detected signs (e.g., gamma rays) consistent with flaring (the emission of cosmic rays) in TXS 0506+056. "In order to produce them you need a proton accelerator".

Of course, the neutrino from there was not alone on the way to the South Pole: In a second study, the researchers identified in their data archives numerous other neutrinos, which had apparently come in recent years also from the direction of TXS 0506 + 056. The neutral charge of neutrinos instead means they are unaffected by magnetic fields and because they pass nearly entirely through matter, they can be used to trace a straight path all the way back to their source. This group effort led to the historic pinpointing of the source, because neutrinos, regardless of what matter they encounter, travel in a straight line at nearly the speed of light. These muons are produced on the rare occasion that a neutrino interacts with matter near the detector, creating tracks as they pass through layers of Antarctic ice. This neutrino held the similar amount of energy as 300 trillion electron volts.


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