NASA finds a mysterious ‘energy trap’ at the center of our galaxy

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Astronomers from NASA have found a “galactic tap” at the center of the Milky Way that according to experts, is capturing high energy cosmic rays.

Experts have discovered that our galaxy—The MilkyWay—conains a “trap” that gathers some of the highest-energy cosmic rays which are considered as some of the fastest particles in the universe.

The center of the Milky Way concentrates cosmic rays of high energy in our galaxy, which is among the fastest particles in space, according to a scientific study echoed by NASA.

The scientific paper, originally published in the journal Physical Review Letters, is based on data from NASA’s Fermi gamma-ray space telescope and the high-energy stereoscopic system (HESS) in Namibia.

Describing the discovery, lead author Daniele Gaggero at the University of Amsterdam said: “Our results suggest that most of the cosmic rays populating the innermost region of our Galaxy, and especially the most energetic ones, are produced in active regions beyond the Galactic center and later slowed there through interactions with gas clouds.”

The H.E.S.S. mirror telescopes in Namibia recently complemented with a 28-metre mirror (Picture: © Christian Föhr/ H.E.S.S. Collaboration, 2012)

“Those interactions create many of the gamma-ray emission observed by Fermi and H.E.S.S.”

“Once we subtracted bright point sources, we found good agreement between the LAT and H.E.S.S. data, which was somewhat surprising due to the different energy windows and observing techniques used,” said co-author Dr. Marco Taoso, from the Institute of Theoretical Physics in Madrid and Italy’s National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN).

“This agreement indicates that the same population of cosmic rays — mostly protons — found throughout the rest of the Galaxy is responsible for gamma rays observed from the Galactic center. But the highest-energy share of these particles, those reaching 1,000 TeV, move through the region less efficiently than they do everywhere else in the Galaxy.”

“This result in a gamma-ray glow extending to the highest energies H.E.S.S. observed.”

Cosmic rays… that sounds like something from a science-fiction movie.

Well, not entirely. Cosmic rays are defined as high energy particles that move through space at almost the speed of light. Awesomely fast.

They are made out of 90 percent protons, with electrons and nuclei of several atoms making up the rest. In their journey through the galaxy, as scientists explain. Electrically charged particles are influenced by magnetic fields, which alter their paths and make it impossible to know where they originated from.

Not aliens guys, not aliens.

Astronomers have a chance to learn more about cosmic rays as they interact with matter and emit gamma rays, which are considered as the most energetic form of light out there.

In the new study, published in the journal Physical Review Letters, an international group of astronomers discovered a continuous gamma-ray spectrum at the galactic center—the center of our Milky Way— emitting across a thousand-fold span of energy.

By using HESS—which is ground based observatory that spots emissions once the atmosphere cleans up gamma rays sending particles out as flashes of blue light—and FERMI in combination, experts found that there is a continuous gamma ray spectrum from the galactic center emission.

Ok hold on, what does this mean exactly? Well, experts believe that the same population of cosmic rays located across the rest of the galaxy is in fact responsible from gamma rays that are observed at the galactic center.

“The most energetic cosmic rays spend more time in the central part of the galaxy than previously believed, so they make a stronger impression in gamma rays,” said Alfredo Urbano from the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva and INFN Trieste.

To check out more, visit the study published online this week in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Source: Diffuse Cosmic Rays Shining in the Galactic Center: A Novel Interpretation of H.E.S.S. and Fermi-LAT

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