A new age of astronomy? Discovery promises fresh insight into black holes and exploding stars

Researchers confirm first detection of sub-atomic particles from beyond the Solar System

Science Editor

Scientists are predicting a new age of astronomy with the discovery of the first sub-atomic neutrino particles from deep space, which could provide fresh insights into cosmic events in distant regions of the Universe such as exploding stars and black holes.

An international team of researchers has confirmed the first detection of high-energy neutrinos - sub-atomic particles from beyond the Solar System - by highly sensitive optical instruments buried a mile deep in the ice sheet of Antarctic.

Neutrinos from deep space normally pass straight through objects such as the Earth without being detected but the IceCube laboratory in Antarctic has now confirmed the tell-tale flashes of light from 28 highly energetic neutrinos it has identified since it began operating in 2011, scientists said.

The breakthrough means that it is now possible to envisage a new class of telescopes based on neutrino detection. These could observe and measure cosmic phenomena that are difficult to detect with conventional telescopes, the researchers said.

"The era of neutrino astronomy has begun. The sources of neutrinos, and the question of what could accelerate these particles, have been a mystery for more than 100 years," said Professor Gregory Sullivan of the University of Maryland.

"Now we have an instrument that can detect astrophysical neutrinos. It's working beautifully, and we expect it to run for another 20 years," said Professor Sullivan, one of the 260 scientists from 11 countries who are participating in the IceCube project.

More than 5,000 highly sensitive light detectors are suspended from 86 steel cables embedded in a cubic kilometre of ice below the IceCube laboratory in order to pick up the brief flashes of blue light created as neutrinos very occasionally interact with the ice.

Billions of high-energy neutrinos from deep space pass through our bodies unnoticed very second and several experiments around the world are designed to detect their tell-tale signals. But until now the only neutrinos that have been detected are low-energy particles from the Sun or from a nearby supernova explosion observed by Japanese astronomers in 1987.

"This is the first indication of very high-energy neutrinos coming from outside our solar system. It is gratifying to finally see what we have been looking for. This is the dawn of a new age of astronomy," said Professor Francis Halzen, the principal investigator of IceCube.

A new class of telescopes could be based on neutrino detection, which would allow scientists to observe and measure cosmic phenomena that are difficult to detect with conventional telescopes A new class of telescopes could be based on neutrino detection, which would allow scientists to observe and measure cosmic phenomena that are difficult to detect with conventional telescopes (Getty) Earlier this year, the researchers detected the remnant flashes of two neutrinos, nicknamed Bert and Ernie. This led them to review their data to find a further 26 signals, which in a study in the journal Science have been confirmed as high-energy neutrinos from deep space.

Now the search will start to concentrate on the possible sources of these neutrinos, which must come from some kind of cosmic particle accelerator such as an exploding supernova, when a giant star collapses in on itself, or an "accreting" black hole which radiates energy as it engulfs surrounding matter.

"This is an important observation. It means that somewhere in the universe there are high-intensity sources [of neutrinos] near a central engine, and lots of collisions are occurring to produce them," said Tom Gaisser of the University of Delaware.

"The universe is transparent to neutrinos. Are they remnants from supernovae, did they emanate from gamma-ray bursts, or where they accelerated from an accreting black hole? We do not have conclusive information about their origin yet," Dr Gaisser said.

Scientific satellite that was able to take images of a exploding star as it happened

By Steve Connor

Two of the most energetic events in space have been linked by scientists for the first time with the help of a scientific satellite that was able to take images of a exploding star as it happened, a study has found.

An extremely powerful stellar explosion or supernova led to an unusually bright burst of gamma radiation on 27 April 2013. This explosion produced a jet of matter moving close to the speed of light, which formed as a massive star collapsed to make a black hole at its centre, scientists said.

Usually gamma ray bursts occur at the further reaches of the Universe, making them difficult to monitor. However this one occurred about quarter of the way across the Universe, which made it possible for scientists to link it with the exploding supernova, the researchers said.

"Seeing such a bright flash a quarter of the way across the observable universe really brings home the astonishing power of these explosions,” said Professor Nial Tanvir, of the University of Leicester, who took part in the study published in the journal Science.

The Swift satellite has detected  about 100 gamma-ray bursts a year since it was launched in 2004 but this April it detected one that was highly unusual, said Daniele Malesani of the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen. "We suddenly saw a gamma-ray burst that was extremely bright – a monster gamma-ray burst. This one of the most powerful gamma-ray bursts we have ever observed with the Swift satellite," Dr Malesani said.


You might also like
Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice