Washington [US], August 12 (ANI): NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope confirms one supernova remnant as a launch site for some of our galaxy’s highest-energy protons.
Fermi has shown that the shock waves of exploded stars boost particles to speeds comparable to that of light. Called cosmic rays, these particles mostly take the form of protons, but can include atomic nuclei and electrons. Because they all carry an electric charge, their paths become scrambled as they whisk through our galaxy’s magnetic field. Since we can no longer tell which direction they originated from, this masks their birthplace. But when these particles collide with interstellar gas near the supernova remnant, they produce a tell-tale glow in gamma rays — the highest-energy light there is.
“Theorists think the highest-energy cosmic ray protons in the Milky Way reach a million billion electron volts, or PeV energies,” said Ke Fang, an assistant professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “The precise nature of their sources, which we call PeVatrons, has been difficult to pin down.”
Trapped by chaotic magnetic fields, the particles repeatedly cross the supernova’s shock wave, gaining speed and energy with each passage. Eventually, the remnant can no longer hold them, and they zip off into interstellar space.
YOUTUBE VIDEO: NASA’s Fermi Confirms Star Wreck as Source of Extreme Cosmic Particles
Boosted to some 10 times the energy mustered by the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, PeV protons are on the cusp of escaping our galaxy altogether.
Astronomers have identified a few suspected PeVatrons, including one at the center of our galaxy. Naturally, supernova remnants top the list of candidates. Yet out of about 300 known remnants, only a few have been found to emit gamma rays with sufficiently high energies.
One particular star wreck has commanded a lot of attention from gamma-ray astronomers. Called G106.3+2.7, it’s a comet-shaped cloud located about 2,600 light-years away in the constellation Cepheus. A bright pulsar caps the northern end of the supernova remnant, and astronomers think both objects formed in the same explosion.
By: Miss Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter
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