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Tags: cosmic ray | beyond galaxy | space | utah | amaterasu | milky way | scientists

Cosmic Ray From Beyond Galaxy Baffles Scientists

By    |   Thursday, 23 November 2023 06:19 PM EST

Space scientists have identified an exceedingly rare, ultra-high-energy particle believed to have traversed from beyond the Milky Way galaxy.

The findings, published Thursday in the journal Science, reveal the particle's energy to be akin to the impact of dropping a brick on one's toe from waist height and is comparable to the renowned "Oh-my-god" particle detected in 1991, reported CNN.

Cosmic rays, charged particles incessantly showering Earth from space, are a focus of scientific inquiry, with low-energy ones originating from the sun and the highest-energy ones thought to emerge from distant galaxies and extragalactic sources.

"If you hold out your hand, one [cosmic ray) goes through the palm of your hand every second, but those are really low-energy things," explained study co-author John Matthews, a research professor at the University of Utah. "When you get out to these really high-energy [cosmic rays], it's more like one per square kilometer per century. It's never going through your hand."

The latest particle, dubbed the Amaterasu particle after the Japanese sun goddess, was detected by the Telescope Array, a cosmic ray observatory in Utah's West Desert. The observatory, operational since 2008, comprises 507 surface detectors covering 270 square miles.

The Amaterasu particle, observed on May 27, 2021, triggered 23 surface detectors, boasting energy of about 244 exaelectron volts; the particle detected in 1991 was 320 exaelectron volts.

An exaelectron volt equals 1 billion gigaelectron volts, and the Amaterasu particle's energy is 244,000,000,000,000,000,000 electron volts, according to NASA. Such ultra-high-energy cosmic rays possess tens of millions of times more energy than any human-made particle accelerator, including the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland.

NASA reported that the typical energy of an electron within the Earth's polar aurora amounts to 40,000 electron volts.

While cosmic rays generally pose minimal threats to humans due to atmospheric protection, they can induce computer glitches. However, NASA said astronauts face greater risks, as space radiation, including cosmic rays, can cause structural damage to DNA and alter cellular processes.

The origin of these ultra-high-energy particles remains a puzzle for scientists. The Amaterasu particle appears to originate from the Local Void, an empty area of space bordering the Milky Way galaxy.

"If you take the two highest-energy events — the one that we just found, the 'Oh-my-god' particle — those don't even seem to point to anything. It should be something relatively close. Astronomers with visible telescopes can't see anything really big and really violent," Matthews said.

The question persists: What is the nature of these cosmic phenomena, seemingly emerging from regions devoid of visible violent events?

An expansion of the Telescope Array is underway to shed light on this cosmic mystery.

Upon completion, 500 new detectors will enable the observatory to capture cosmic ray-induced particle showers across about 1,120 square miles, providing an opportunity for a potential breakthrough in understanding these enigmatic celestial occurrences, according to the University of Utah statement.

Jim Thomas

Jim Thomas is a writer based in Indiana. He holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, a law degree from U.I.C. Law School, and has practiced law for more than 20 years.

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Space scientists have identified an exceedingly rare, ultra-high-energy particle believed to have traversed from beyond the Milky Way galaxy.
cosmic ray, beyond galaxy, space, utah, amaterasu, milky way, scientists
Thursday, 23 November 2023 06:19 PM
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