Ghostly particles give scientists new understanding of universe

Neutrinos are elementary particles that can travel billions of light years across the universe and can pass through stars, planets, and galaxies without being affected.

Now, after months of observation, those groups have collectively determined the precise source of the high-energy neutrino: TXS 0506+056, a blazar located about 4 billion light-years from Earth (a blazar is a type of elliptical galaxy with a rapidly spinning black hole at its center).

That detection was made on September 22, 2017, and using telescopes on Earth and in space, the scientists were able to determine that the particle had originated in a galaxy that is almost four billion light years from Earth in the Orion constellation. The search for the location of a single neutrino began when it was recorded by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole.

Researchers believe we could use high-energy neutrinos to examine distant objects in space. "In many ways neutrinos are nature's ideal astronomical messenger".

The findings solve a mystery dating to 1912 over the source of subatomic particles like neutrinos and cosmic rays that dash through the cosmos.

This discovery is exciting for many reasons; not only does it help understand the universe around us and where we come from, but it also is the beginning of an entirely new field of study.

Cosmic rays are energetic particles radiation that travel at almost the speed of light and bombard the Earth. Cosmic rays and neutrinos likely originate from the same source, and neutrinos can be traced. These subatomic particles have no electrical charge and nearly no mass.

Neutrinos are electrically neutral, undisturbed by even the strongest magnetic field, and rarely interact with matter, earning the nickname "ghost particle".

The IceCube neutrino detector involves 86 holes drilled 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) into the Antarctic ice.

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