Ghost Particle’s Birthplace Found – From A Black Hole……To Antarctica; What’s The BIG Deal?
In an incredible display of scientific ingenuity and likely some luck, astronomers last week announced the discovery of cosmic particles called neutrinos, “the most abundant, energetic, and least-understood particles in the universe,” wrote Robert Lee Hotz, in the July 13, 2018 edition of the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Hotz added that “astronomers traced a burst of powerful cosmic particles called neutrinos to a black hole — firing like a ray gun aimed at Earth, by using an unusual observatory buried in a billion tons of ice under the South Pole.”
“The international research team said it believes the discovery announced [last Thursday] at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Washington D.C., may pinpoint the first known source of [the] high-energy cosmic rays, putting to rest a mystery that has bedeviled astrophysicists for decades.”
“This is one of the oldest problems in astronomy,” said Francis Halzen, a physicist at the University of Wisconsin Madison, and lead scientist for the IceCube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica. “By identifying the source of those neutrinos, we identified a source of cosmic rays.”
The research team has concluded that “one of the most luminous objects in the known universe, hurls these high-energy neutrinos toward Earth — a galaxy called a blazar, located in the constellation Orion, about four billion light years away,” from Earth, Mr. Hotz wrote. “This cloud of stars is being devoured by a black hole — with a mass of a million suns compressed into a space no larger than our own solar system,” said physicist Kam-Blu, at the University of California Berkeley, who Mr. Hotz notes, “was not part of the project.”
As Dennis Overbye wrote in the July 13, 2018 edition of the New York Times, in describing a neutrino and the find, “it was the smallest bullet you could possibly imagine, a subatomic particle weighing barely more than a thought. It had been fired out of a gravitational gun barrel, by a cosmic blunderbuss, a super-massive black hole.”
“In its astrophysical agony, the blazar spits a jet of charged cosmic ray particles, coupled with neutrinos a million more times energetic than any particle accelerator on Earth could produce,” Mr. Hotz wrote. “The find caps almost 20 years of work by the IceCube Collaboration, comprising more than 300 astrophysicists and astronomers at 48 research centers in a dozen countries, led by scientists at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Funded by the NSF, the $274M IceCube Observatory at the U.S. Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, is the largest astronomy project ever undertaken on the isolated, southernmost continent.”
“It takes a strange observatory to spot a particle that normally shies away from normal matter,” Mr Hotz observed. “In the hunt, scientists have erected detectors in a South Dakota cavern a mile underground, at the bottom of Lake Baikal in Siberia, under a mountain in Japan, and on the floor of the Mediterranean Sea.”
“But, the largest is the IceCube, created from a cubic kilometer of the purest and most transparent ice in the world,” Mr. Kotz wrote. “Frozen in place are more than 5,000 basketball-size optical sensors designed to catch a trace of a passing neutrino, on the rare occasion one of them interacts with the ice.”
“I think this is the real thing,” said John Leonard in an email to the New York Times. and a neutrino expert at the University of Hawaii. “The true beginning of high-energy, neutrino astronomy, of which we have dreamed for many decades.” “Now,” he added, “we will start seeing the guts of the most energetic objects in the universe.”
So, What Does This Discovery Mean?
“Neutrinos tell us a tremendous amount about how the universe is created and held together. There’s no other way to answer a lot of the questions,” that have been on our minds since the dawn of humans, Nathaniel Bowden, a scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory told the publication NewsWise last week.
Chelsea Gohd, in discussing the importance of finding neutrinos in an article in the February 27, 2018 edition of Futurism, noted that “experts have compared the search for these particles, to the work of archaeologists to reconstruct prehistoric artifacts, in order to understand what life was like then. Better understanding of neutrinos could unlock secrets about other elements of astronomy and physics, from dark matter, to the expansion of the universe,” she added.
“Neutrinos could help us identify other forces in the universe that we have not yet been able to detect or understand,” Ms. Gohd wrote. “They can teach us about the core of the densest stars; and, could one day lead to the discovery of new astrophysical objects. If we can understand neutrinos, maybe we could answer some of the most essential [and profound] in physics — at the very heart of our existence.”
Wow. Pretty cool. And how about the intellectual acumen it took — to place these instruments, and catch a “subatomic particle, weighing barely more than a thought.” Really, really…..incredible. Stay tuned. RCP, www.fortunascorner.com