Where do cosmic rays come from? Scientists could be closer to finding out with 'hotspot' discovery
A 'hotspot' was discovered near the Plough or Big Dipper constellation
Tuesday 08 July 2014
Astronomers could be closer to discovering the mysterious source of cosmic rays after finding a “hotspot” beneath the Plough constellation.
Scientists at a University of Utah observatory found a “disproportionate” number of the high-energy rays emitting from the area.
Gordon Thomson, a researcher at the Telescope Array cosmic ray observatory near Delta, said: “This puts us closer to finding out the sources – but no cigar yet.
“All we see is a blob in the sky, and inside this blob there is all sorts of stuff – various types of objects – that could be the source.
“Now we know where to look.”
The observatory has the Northern Hemisphere’s largest cosmic ray detector. This map of the northern sky shows cosmic ray concentrations, with a “hotspot” shown in red and yellow
Between May 2008, and May 2013, it recorded 72 of the most powerful cosmic rays to find the source.
Nineteen came from the direction of the hotspot but only 4.5 would have been expected if they came randomly from all parts of the sky.
The hotspot makes up 6 per cent of the northern sky and is centred in the southwest corner of the constellation Ursa Major, which includes the Big Dipper or Plough.
“The hotspot is a couple of hand widths below the Big Dipper’s handle,” Mr Thomson said.
An article on the “hotspot” discovery will be published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.
University of Utah physicists Gordon Thomson, Charlie Jui and John Matthews discuss the Telescope Array cosmic ray observatory’s discovery The study was carried out by 125 researchers in the Telescope Array project, including scientists from Japan, the United States, South Korea, Russia and Belgium.
Mr Thomson said many astrophysicists suspect ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays are generated by active galactic nuclei, or AGNs, where material is sucked into a supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy, while other material is beamed away in a blazar.
Another popular theory is that the highest-energy cosmic rays come from some supernovas that emit gamma rays bursts.
Lower-energy cosmic rays come from the sun, other stars and exploding stars, but the source or sources of the most energetic cosmic rays has been a mystery since they were discovered in 1912.
Despite being called rays, they are actually made up of particles. If an ultrahigh-energy cosmic ray could penetrate the atmosphere and hit someone in the head, a single subatomic particle would feel like being hit in the head by a fast-bowled cricket ball.
A scintillation detector at the Telescope Array cosmic ray observatory Observations by the Pierre Auger cosmic ray observatory in Argentina provide evidence for a weaker hotspot in the southern hemisphere.
If that proves real, Mr Thomson said cosmic rays in the northern and southern hotspots must come from different sources.
Physicists want to expand the size and thus sensitivity of the Telescope Array in Utah to carry on the research.
- 1 'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
- 2 West poised to join forces with President Assad in face of Islamic State
- 3 Mother fed her daughter tapeworms to make her skinny for pageant
- 4 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 5 Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
West poised to join forces with President Assad in face of Islamic State
Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – as hunt begins for killer
ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global investment management fi...
£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...
£70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...
£60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...