Published: Mon, July 16, 2018
Science | By Joan Schultz

Neutrino that struck Antarctica traced to galaxy 3.7bn light years away

Neutrino that struck Antarctica traced to galaxy 3.7bn light years away

IceCube, the largest detector specialized in hunting the particles, which was located at the South Pole, detected on September 22 in 2017 the neutrino whose energy was more than 40 times that of the protons produced in the world's largest particle accelerator at CERN outside Geneva. Telescopes on earth and in space were able to determine that the exotic particle had originated in a galaxy over three billion light years away, in the constellation of Orion, where a very big black hole serves as a natural particle accelerator.

Neilson is also a lead author of one or two research papers on the discovery and it is going to be published in Friday's edition of the journal Science.

According to scientists, the discovery of these particles allows them to study the universe in a brand-new way, hinting that this might allow them to track the origin of cosmic rays for the very first time.

"It's the beginning of a new channel in astronomy", Dolinski said.

"The IceCube detection and the ASAS-SN detection combined with gamma-ray detections from NASA's Fermi gamma-ray space telescope and the MAGIC telescopes that show TXS 0506+056 was undergoing the strongest gamma-ray flare in a decade, indicate that this could be the first identified source of high-energy neutrinos and thus a cosmic-ray source", said Anna Franckowiak, ASAS-SN and IceCube team member, Helmholtz Young Investigator, and staff scientist at DESY in Germany. "In many ways neutrinos are nature's ideal astronomical messenger". Also, neutrinos are scarcely absorbed. "Each messenger - from electromagnetic radiation, gravitational waves and now neutrinos - gives us a more complete understanding of the universe, and important new insights into the most powerful objects and events in the sky". The explanation came as a result of many astronomers from around the globe searching for a so-called "ghost particle".

It is not exactly atypical for the Earth to be hit by neutrinos from outer space. The need to ship all of the components to build the detector in the holds of military cargo aircraft, as well as the development of hot-water drilling techniques required to install instruments into the ice sheet, make NSF's IceCube, which became operational in 2010, the culmination of a uniquely challenging scientific and logistical endeavor.

Detecting the highest energy neutrinos requires a massive particle detector, and IceCube fits the bill. Into these holes they lowered 5160 light sensors, spread out over a total volume of one cubic kilometre. When a neutrino interacts with the nucleus of an atom, it creates a secondary charged particle, which, in turn, produces a characteristic cone of blue light that is detected by IceCube and mapped through the detector's grid of photomultiplier tubes.

For the first time, astronomers have traced a cosmic neutrino back to where it started its journey out in space.

"Interestingly, we all believed that blazara unlikely to be the source of cosmic rays, but we now know that in reality it is the opposite". This, as it now seems, could be the reason that Earth has been pelted with inexplicable ghost particles.

While neutrinos are everywhere, the one detected in Antarctica by the IceCube Neutrino Observatory was especially energetic.

Cosmic neutrinos come from high-energy sources, like hot stars or supernovas.

Blazerae astronomers call supermassive black holes. The neutrino source may have been a jet that shot out into space as the black hole devoured matter.

For centuries we've been known that peeping through the universe is cosmic rays; originates far beyond our Galaxy.

"Now we have found key evidence supporting this assumption", said Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich, whose group contributed to the findings. A blazar is a type of galaxy with a central black hole that spins at high speed and spews streams of neutrinos in opposing directions.

"Fermi's LAT monitors the entire sky in gamma rays and keeps tabs on the activity of some 2,000 blazars, yet TXS 0506 really stood out", explained NASA Postdoctoral Fellow Sara Buson.

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