Scientists trace the origin of high-energy cosmic radiation

Christopher Davidson
July 13, 2018

Scientists first started theorizing about neutrinos in the 1930s, and by 1956, they confirmed their existence.

Now, after months of observation, those groups have collectively determined the precise source of the high-energy neutrino: TXS 0506+056, a blazar located about 4 billion light-years from Earth (a blazar is a type of elliptical galaxy with a rapidly spinning black hole at its center).

The ability to use particles like high-energy neutrinos in astronomy enables a more robust examination, much as the confirmation of ripples in the fabric of space-time called gravitational waves, announced in 2016, opened another new frontier in astronomy. This emerging field is dubbed "multi-messenger astrophysics".

The team says that this observation campaign is a step in solving something scientists have puzzled over for decades- the origins of cosmic rays.

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It appears they come from some of the universe's most violent locales. Discovering neutrinos is very hard because they often pass through the Earth without ever being detected. A cosmic ray is a high-energy subatomic particle that constantly bombards the atmosphere of our planet.

Odd cosmic "ghost particles" have been traced to their source by a research station buried in the ice near the South Pole in a major breakthrough.

Neutrinos are electrically neutral, undisturbed by even the strongest magnetic field, and rarely interact with matter, earning the nickname "ghost particle". We know they originate outside our galaxy, but because they are deflected along the way, it's been impossible to trace their source. Scientists believe that neutrinos are created as a by-product of cosmic rays. 5,160 light sensors were lowered into those holes and spread out over one cubic kilometer. Lower-energy neutrinos, for example, are produced prolifically in the fusion processes of stars like our sun.

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