Scientists discover source of high-energy cosmic neutrinos for the first time

Rodiano Bonacci
Luglio 15, 2018

This is the first time scientists have ever detected a neutrino and identified its source.

"What's special", says Albrecht Karle, another senior IceCube scientist and UW-Madison physics professor, "is we are in the beam". They used the IceCube observatory for detecting the same. Quasars are among the most energetic phenomena in the universe and can form relativistic jets where elementary particles are accelerate and launched at almost the speed of light. Because they travel at almost the speed of light and do not interact with other matter, they are capable of traversing billions of light years. They are constantly bombarding our planet in unimaginable numbers.

The neutrino was discovered a year ago in Antarctica by an worldwide team of scientists using the US National Science Foundation's IceCube Neutrino Observatory. 5,160 light sensors were lowered into those holes and spread out over one cubic kilometer. It's called "IceCube" because it's built right into the Antarctic ice-sheet. IceCube is an array of more than 5,000 light sensors created to pick up these flashes. To be exact, it has around 300 tera-electronvolts or more than 40 times stronger than the protons being produced by the Large Hadron Collider, which is already the world's largest particle accelerator.

Sunday, 17 September 2017, the IceCube detectors "flashed" neutrinos of ultrahigh energy, whose trajectory pointed to his apparent cosmic origin. IceCube has also detected neutrinos produced in astrophysical events-called astrophysical neutrinos-although far fewer.

Did INTEGRAL record the high-energy neutrino source? "But to best understand what they're telling us, we need to connect them to the "messenger" astronomers know best-light".

The particle was a weird specimen known as a high-energy neutrino.

"When ASAS-SN receives an alert from IceCube, we automatically find the first available ASAS-SN telescope that can see that area of the sky and observe it as quickly as possible", said Benjamin Shappee, an astronomer at the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy and an ASAS-SN core member.

Equipped with a relatively new alert system - triggered when neutrinos of very high energies crash into an atomic nucleus in or near NSF's IceCube detector - the observatory sent coordinates to telescopes worldwide less than a minute after detection for follow-up observations.

And the lasting result is a new way in front of us to see and get full information of some of the most powerful forces which exist in our universe.

"Now we have found the first evidence for a specific source object, a blazer, which is a very high energy type of galaxy". Other instruments operating at optical, radio and X-ray wavelengths also made detections.

The bottom line: It's bright across the spectrum.

The blazar known as TXS 0506 is around 3.7 billion light years from Earth, just to the left of the constellation Orion.

Artist's impression of the active galactic nucleus shows the supermassive black hole at the center of the accretion disk sending a narrow high-energy jet of matter into space, perpendicular to the disc in this image by Science Communication Lab in Kiel Germany, released on July 12, 2018.

But the link between neutrinos and the faraway blazar isn't a sure thing.

To make sure that the flare and the neutrino's arrival weren't just a coincidence, the scientists looked at the problem from another angle.

Following the September 22 detection, the IceCube team quickly scoured the detector's archival data - NSF's IceCube is always on and looking in all directions, including through the Earth to the sky in the Northern Hemisphere - and discovered a flare of neutrinos from December 2014, coincident with the same blazar, TXS 0506+056, which scientists have nicknamed "the Texas source".

Now, through the neutrino discovered in Antarctica, experts finally have the answer: the blazar, a giant elliptical galaxy with a massive and rapidly spinning black hole.

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