The discovery has just been published by the journal Nature. The study reports that researchers using the VERITAS array of four telescopes at the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in Arizona have detected gamma rays of a trillion electron volts coming from the M 82 galaxy. The corresponding author of the article is Wystan Benbow of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the Whipple Observatory.
Researchers discovered cosmic rays (mostly hydrogen nuclei) from space nearly a century ago and have developed theories about their origins in supernova remnants and star-forming galaxies, but hadn't found evidence to support those theories.
"This is a step toward solving a 100-year-old puzzle in cosmic ray physics," said Frank Krennrich, an Iowa State professor of physics and astronomy and a collaborator on the VERITAS project.
Gamma rays are high energy electromagnetic radiation. The rays discovered by the VERITAS researchers have a trillion times the energy of visible light. M 82 is a galaxy in the direction of the Ursa Major constellation that's 12 million light years from Earth. It is classified as a starburst galaxy. Such galaxies are colliding with other galaxies, causing shockwaves that compress gases and create stars at very high rates.
"What this shows is that there is a strong connection between a galaxy with high star formation, high gas density and the production of cosmic rays," Krennrich said.
But Krennrich said there's more work to be done to definitively trace gamma rays to cosmic rays in starburst galaxies.
Researchers believe more knowledge of gamma rays could help them explore distant regions of space, help them look for evidence of dark matter, determine how much electromagnetic radiation the universe has produced and answer questions about the formation of stars and galaxies.
Krennrich said one key to current gamma ray research is the VERITAS telescope system (that's the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System). The $20 million instrument started operating in 2007 and is the world's most sensitive instrument for detecting gamma rays.
It's not easy to detect those rays. Even with their high energies, gamma rays can't penetrate the earth's atmosphere. When they hit the atmosphere, they create showers of electrons and positrons that create a blue light known as Cerenkov radiation. Those showers move very fast. And they're not very bright.
VERITAS looks for the rays with four reflector disks 12 meters across that look like satellite dishes. The reflectors are covered with mirrors that direct light into cameras attached to the front of each disk. Each camera is about 7 feet across and contains about 500 tube-shaped photon detectors or pixels.
All those detectors were built in a laboratory on the fourth floor of Iowa State's Zaffarano Physics Addition. The assembly took about $1 million and a lot of work by Iowa State post-doctoral researchers Martin Schroedter and Tomoyuki Nagai.
The telescope system is based on techniques Iowa State researchers Richard Lamb and David Carter-Lewis helped develop in the 1980s.
And now Krennrich says researchers are contemplating the next generation of gamma ray detection systems.
Krennrich said researchers are assembling a worldwide collaboration to plan and build a $300 million, 36-telescope array. The new instrument would be known as AGIS (the Advanced Gamma-ray Imaging System) and would be 10 times more sensitive than VERITAS.
Krennrich said Iowa State researchers are working on image-recognizing technology for the AGIS system that would help researchers by automatically separating gamma ray events from background events.
The new instrument, Krennrich said, might finally produce the data that establishes the origins of gamma rays and cosmic rays.
Frank Krennrich | Newswise Science News
Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie
Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences
24.10.2016 | Life Sciences
24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy