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Our Black Hole May be a Source of the Mysterious Neutrino Particle

Nov 16, 2014 08:07 PM EST
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Our Black Hole May be a Source of the Mysterious Neutrino Particle
Neutrinos are like the ghosts of the particle world, carrying no charge and interacting with electrons and protons in only the faintest ways. Now a new study suggests that the great majority of high-energy neutrinos that can be found in the Milky Way Galaxy may be coming from the large black hole at its center, implying that black holes are actually neutrino factories.
(Photo : NASA/CXC/Univ. of Wisconsin/Y.Bai. et al.)

Neutrinos are like the ghosts of the particle world, carrying no charge and interacting with electrons and protons in only the faintest ways. They also can pass through the Universe uninhibited, unaffected by magnetic fields or absorbed by intervening matter.

Now a new study suggests that the great majority of high-energy neutrinos that can be found in the Milky Way Galaxy may be coming from the large black hole at its center, implying that black holes are actually neutrino factories.

"Figuring out where high-energy neutrinos come from is one of the biggest problems in astrophysics today," study co-author Yang Bai, of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, said in a statement. "We now have the first evidence that an astronomical source - the Milky Way's supermassive black hole - may be producing these very energetic neutrinos."

According to the study, recently published in the journal Physical Review D, the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, located at the South Pole, has detected 36 high-energy neutrinos since the facility became operational in 2010. By pairing this data with detections from three additional x-ray telescopes, scientists were able to look for violent events in space that corresponded with the arrival of a high-energy neutrinos.

Readings from the Chandra X-ray Observatory in particular helped researchers witness the biggest outburst ever detected from the Milky Way's super massive black hole.

"And less than three hours later, there was a neutrino detection at IceCube," said co-author Andrea Peterson.

This has some serious implications that the black hole is a neutrino factory.

However, how exactly the black hole is producing these ghostly particles is still very much a mystery. One idea is that when particles around the black hole are accelerated by a shock wave, like a sonic boom, which produces charged particles that decay to neutrinos - essentially ghosts of their former selves.

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