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Cosmic rays travel to Earth at relativistic speeds from deep space, but their origins have puzzled astronomers for over a century. Yesterday (July 12), an international team of scientists announced they had tracked an associated particle back to its origin, revealing for the first time one source of cosmic rays.
The discovery is a triumph of multimessenger astronomy, in which scientists use multiple types of signals — in this case, electromagnetic waves and ghostlike particles known as neutrinos — to probe cosmological questions impossible to answer the old-fashioned (one-message) way.
Today - Something - Accelerators - Detection - Neutrinos
"Today, we're really excited to report [that] now we know something about cosmic accelerators in the joint detection of neutrinos and gamma rays," Regina Caputo, who works on NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, said during a news conference yesterday.
Astronomers have long sought the ability to synthesize multiple types of signals. At the news conference, astrophysicist Razmik Mirzoyan, of the Max Planck Institute for Physics in Munich, Germany, recalled discussions with his colleagues decades ago.
Future - Sources - Spectrum - Instruments - Mirzoyan
"They were saying, 'Sometime in the future, maybe it will become possible to measure sources not only across the electromagnetic spectrum, but also … with ground-based instruments [detecting] neutrinos,'" Mirzoyan said. "And I'm very happy, because today it's becoming reality."
A cosmic mystery
Physicist - Charles-Augustin - Coulomb - Particles - Charge
As early as the 1780s, French physicist Charles-Augustin de Coulomb noticed that charged particles were neutralizing the electric charge of some of his experiments. In 1912, Austrian scientist Victor Hess first demonstrated that these particles were arriving from space. He used a hot-air balloon to take a detector high in the sky, where he soon observed nearly three times as much ionizing radiation as at ground level. This indicated that the mysterious particles were coming from above.
We now know that cosmic rays consist of different subatomic particles: negatively charged electrons and positively charged protons...
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