A team of researchers in Antartica has verified the existence of cosmic neutrinos, or miniscule particles that originate from the far corners of the Milky Way and even beyond that.
High-energy cosmic neutrinos are thought to be created by some of the most high-energy and violent scenarios in the universe, including the likes of black holes, supernovae, and energetic cores of galaxies. The discovery was made by a team from IceCube, the particle detector at the South Pole that records the interactions of the nearly massless subatomic particles called neutrinos with the ice.
"Cosmic neutrinos are the key to yet unexplored parts of our universe and might be able to finally reveal the origins of the highest energy cosmic rays, including the rare 'Oh-My-God' particles," said Olga Botner, IceCube Collaboration spokesperson, in a statement.
According to the researchers, the finding of these particles not only confirms that they exist, but also offers information of where cosmic rays come from.
The finding of cosmic neutrinos is extremely difficult for a number of reasons. First of all, they contain almost no mass and have no electrical charge. Not only that, but there is an abundance of neutrinos from nearby on Earth, while those hailing from far away, or cosmic neutrinos, are extremely rare. In 2013 scientists in Antarctica observed two potential cosmic neutrinos, which they named "Bert and Ernie," however this was not enough to convince the scientific powers that be of their existence.
The study appears in Physical Review Letters, and details the existence and the discovery of the elusive cosmic neutrinos. Researchers essentially dug optical sensors deep into the ice in Antarctica at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory. Eventually, they were able to identify 21 muons, which are particles created when a neutrino slams into something else, a very rare occurrence. Scientists suggest that the finding of these muons confirms that neutrinos such as Bert and Ernie could have traversed space without being disturbed by the likes of planets and stars.
Of course, there are always more discoveries to be made, with the next step being to identify where cosmic neutrinos are coming from. When a muon is made, it leaves a trail of light, mirroring the path of the neutrino. This path could, in theory, be used to identify where the neutrino comes from.
The IceCube Neutrino Observatory was built with National Science Foundation Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction award, with assistance from partner funding agencies around the world. The NSF continues to support the project, along with international support from participating institutions and their funding agencies. The University of Wisconsin, Madison is the lead institution, and the international collaboration includes 300 physicists and engineers from the U.S., Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Switzerland, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, U.K., Korea and Denmark.
Via: The Guardian