Saturday, November 23, 2013

Discovery Of Cosmic Neutrinos Signals New Era Of Astronomy

November 21, 2013

Computers at the IceCube laboratory collect raw data in near-real time from detectors buried deep in the Antarctic ice.
Credit: Felipe Pedreros, IceCube/NSF
Lee Rannals for – Your Universe Online

Astronomers working with the IceCube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica have announced that they have, for the first time, observed 28 very high-energy particle events, leading them to conclude that “the era of neutrino astronomy has begun.”

Cosmic neutrinos are nearly massless particles that stream to Earth at the speed of light from outside our solar system. This observation, published in the journal Science, will allow scientists to learn about the nature of astrophysical phenomena that occurs millions to billions of light years away from Earth.

“The sources of neutrinos, and the question of what could accelerate these particles, has been a mystery for more than 100 years. Now we have an instrument that can detect astrophysical neutrinos. It’s working beautifully, and we expect it to run for another 20 years,” Gregory Sullivan, who led the team from University of Maryland, said in a statement.

Between May 2010 and May 2012, the IceCube detector at the South Pole captured a total of 28 neutrinos with energies greater than 30 teraelectronvolts (TeV). Two of the neutrinos had an energy of more than 1,000 TeV, which is more than the kinetic energy of a flying bug.

“This is the first indication of very high-energy neutrinos coming from outside our solar system,” said Francis Halzen, principal investigator of IceCube and the Hilldale and Gregory Breit Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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