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

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” with a disproportionate number of cosmic rays shown as the bright red and yellow spot, 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 of a “hotspot” 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 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.

Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
tech

Company decides to go for simply scary after criticising other sites for 'creepy and targeted' advertising

Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
News
news

Footage shot by a passerby shows moment an ill man was carried out of his burning home

Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Fans of Palmeiras looks dejected during the match between Palmeiras and Santos
footballPalmeiras fan killed trying to 'ambush' bus full of opposition supporters
News
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
filmsIt's nearly a wrap on Star Wars: Episode 7, producer reveals
Travel
travel

Latest stories from i100
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

SEN Teaching Assistant

£70 - £75 per day: Randstad Education Group: TA's urgently required. London (S...

KS1 & KS2 Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Day to Day job opportunities f...

Primary Teachers needed in Cheshire West

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Day to Day job opportunities f...

NQT Job Opportunties in Winsford

£85 - £100 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Are you a Newly Qualified Teac...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past