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Cosmic Mystery Unveiled : Utah’s Astonishing Galactic Discovery !

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“Behold the ‘Amaterasu Particle’: A vibrant artist’s rendering captures the exceptionally energetic cosmic ray observed by the Telescope Array Collaboration, helmed by the University of Utah and the University of Tokyo.”

“Cosmic Scientists delving into the mysterious origins of potent cosmic rays have uncovered an extraordinarily rare ultra-high-energy particle. They believe this subatomic traveler journeyed to Earth from beyond our Milky Way galaxy. Although invisible to the naked eye, the particle’s energy is likened to the impact of dropping a brick from waist height.

A recent study in Science unveils an ultra-high-energy cosmic ray, rivaling the power of the renowned ‘Oh-My-God’ particle discovered in 1991. Cosmic rays, comprising low-energy particles from the sun and exceptionally high-energy ones believed to originate from distant galaxies, constantly shower Earth. University of Utah researcher John Matthews highlights the stark contrast between low-energy rays passing through one’s hand every second and the rarity of ultra-high-energy rays occurring approximately once per square kilometer per century. This cosmic phenomenon challenges our understanding of the universe, where ordinary and extraordinary elements coexist in space’s vastness.

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One of the cosmic ray detectors that make up the Telescope Array, which is based in Utah.

“Despite extensive research, the precise origins of these high-energy particles remain elusive. Scientists believe they are connected to the universe’s most energetic events, like those associated with black holes, gamma-ray bursts, and active galactic nuclei. Surprisingly, the largest particles discovered seem to emerge from voids or empty space, where no significant celestial events have occurred. This mystery adds a layer of intrigue to our quest for understanding the dynamic forces shaping the cosmos.”

Pursuing the Origins of Potent Cosmic Rays

The Amaterasu particle, inspired by Japanese mythology’s sun goddess, was recently detected by Utah’s Telescope Array. Operational since 2008, the observatory comprises 507 surface detectors across 700 square kilometers. Despite observing over 30 ultra-high-energy cosmic rays, none rivaled the Amaterasu particle, striking Utah’s atmosphere on May 27, 2021. Analyzing the event, researchers noted 23 triggered detectors, revealing a calculated energy of about 244 exa-electron volts—lower than the 320 exa-electron volts of the renowned “Oh My God particle” discovered over 30 years ago. This immense energy, equivalent to 244 quintillion electron volts, far surpasses typical polar aurora electron energies of 40,000 electron volts, as per NASA‘s comparisons.

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A telescope station in Utah, with stars swirling overhead.

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Ultra-high-energy cosmic rays carry energy levels tens of millions of times greater than any human-made particle accelerator. Such as the Large Hadron Collider, according to Glennys Farrar, a physics professor at New York University. These particles necessitate environments with extremely high magnetic fields, akin to a natural super-sized LHC. The rarity of such conditions makes these sources exceptionally scarce, with the particles dispersing into the vast universe. While the atmosphere shields humans from harmful effects, cosmic rays can occasionally lead to computer glitches. These particles, along with broader space radiation, present a more significant risk to astronauts, potentially causing structural DNA damage and disrupting various cellular processes, notes NASA.

Enigmatic Origin

Scientists remain perplexed about the origin of these ultra-high-energy particles. John Matthews, co-spokesman for the Telescope Array Collaboration, noted that the trajectories of the two largest recorded cosmic rays seem somewhat arbitrary. When retracing their paths, no sufficiently high-energy sources are evident. Notably, the Amaterasu particle is believed to have originated from the Local Void, an empty expanse adjacent to the Milky Way galaxy. The mystery deepens as researchers grapple with the seemingly elusive sources of these cosmic phenomena.

“If you take the two highest-energy events — the one that we just found, the ‘Oh-My-God’ particle — those don’t even seem to point to anything. It should be something relatively close. Astronomers with visible telescopes can’t see anything really big and really violent,” Matthews said.

The perplexing origin of cosmic rays, specifically the Amaterasu particle, raises questions about its emergence from what seems to be a local void in space. This void, characterized by emptiness, adds to the cosmic mystery. A potential breakthrough may come with the expansion of the Telescope Array, where 500 additional detectors will enhance the observatory’s ability to capture particle showers induced by cosmic rays. Once completed, this expansion will cover a vast area of 2,900 square kilometers, providing valuable insights into these enigmatic phenomena.

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