May 16, 2013
“First Evidence for Extraterrestrial Sources of High-Energy Neutrinos” –Reports Antarctica Observatory
Although cosmic rays were discovered 100 years ago, their origin
remains one of the most enduring mysteries in physics. Until now. A
massive telescope at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory in the Antarctic ice reports the detection of 28 extremely high-energy neutrinos that might have their origin in cosmic sources. Two of these reached energies greater than 1 petaelectronvolt (PeV), an energy level thousands of times higher than the highest energy neutrino yet produced in a manmade accelerator.
“We’re looking for the first time at high energy neutrinos that are
not coming from the atmosphere,” says Francis Halzen, principal
investigator of IceCube and the Hilldale and Gregory Breit Distinguished Professor of Physics at University of Wisconsin–Madison. “This is what we were looking for,” he adds.
Because they rarely interact with matter and are unimpeded by
gravity, neutrinos can carry information about the workings of the
highest-energy and most distant phenomena in the universe. Though
billions of neutrinos pass through the Earth every second, the vast
majority originate either in the sun or in the Earth’s atmosphere. Far
rarer are high-energy neutrinos that may hail from the most powerful
cosmic events — such as gamma ray bursts, black holes, or star formation
— where they would be created in association with high-energy cosmic
rays that can reach energies up to thousands of PeVs.
Postdoctoral fellow Nathan Whitehorn described 28 high-energy
neutrino events captured by the detector between May 2010 and May 2012.
These events, including two that exceeded the unprecedented energy level
of 1 PeV, were one of the main goals for building a detector such as
“Their properties are strongly inconsistent with what you would
expect of atmospheric sources and are almost exactly what you would
expect from an astrophysical source,” Whitehorn says. It is premature to
speculate where these neutrinos originated, he adds, but the IceCube
collaboration is continuing to refine and expand the analysis.
IceCube is comprised of more than 5,000 digital optical modules suspended in a cubic kilometer of ice at the South Pole. The National Science Foundation-supported
observatory detects neutrinos through the tiny flashes of blue light
produced when a neutrino interacts with a water molecule in the ice.
The first hints of high-energy neutrinos came with the unexpected
discovery in April 2012 of two detector events above 1 PeV. An analysis
of those events was reported last month in a paper submitted to the
journal Physical Review Letters.
An intensified search, led by Whitehorn and fellow WIPAC scientists
Claudio Kopper and Naoko Kurahashi Neilson, turned up 26 additional
events exceeding 30 teraelectronvolts (TeV; one-thousandth of a PeV),
which will be described in a forthcoming publication.
“First Evidence for Extraterrestrial Sources of High-Energy Neutrinos” –Reports Antarctica Observatory.
Thanks to: http://2012indyinfo.com