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September 25, 2017 AT 8:00 am

Cosmic Rays from Outside Our Galaxy

via The Verge and Science

Astronomers have finally solved a long-standing mystery about the origins of cosmic rays, the highly energetic particles that zoom throughout space. For half a century, scientists haven’t been able to pin down where the most energetic rays in our Universe come from. But thanks to more than a decade of detecting cosmic rays from South America, astronomers have confirmed that these super energetic particles are coming from outside our galaxy.

Space is filled with cosmic rays — tiny fragments of atoms — all with varying amounts of energies. Many of the low- or medium-energy ones are thought to originate from within our galaxy, likely from supernovae, or exploding stars, which hurl high-speed particles out into space when they die. Then there are what are considered ultra high-energy cosmic rays: particles with energies millions of times greater than any particle ever observed on Earth. These types of rays are puzzling, mostly because no one is quite sure what is causing the particles to get so energetic. “We don’t know of a mechanism that can accelerate particles up to the energies we observe,” Greg Snow, a professor of physics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and one of the collaborators on this research, tells The Verge.

 

Astronomers have finally solved a long-standing mystery about the origins of cosmic rays, the highly energetic particles that zoom throughout space. For half a century, scientists haven’t been able to pin down where the most energetic rays in our Universe come from. But thanks to more than a decade of detecting cosmic rays from South America, astronomers have confirmed that these super energetic particles are coming from outside our galaxy.

Space is filled with cosmic rays — tiny fragments of atoms — all with varying amounts of energies. Many of the low- or medium-energy ones are thought to originate from within our galaxy, likely from supernovae, or exploding stars, which hurl high-speed particles out into space when they die. Then there are what are considered ultra high-energy cosmic rays: particles with energies millions of times greater than any particle ever observed on Earth. These types of rays are puzzling, mostly because no one is quite sure what is causing the particles to get so energetic. “We don’t know of a mechanism that can accelerate particles up to the energies we observe,” Greg Snow, a professor of physics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and one of the collaborators on this research, tells The Verge.

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