A mystery lurking at the centre of our own Milky Way galaxy - an object radiating high-energy gamma rays - has been detected by an international team of astronomers. Their research, published today (September 22nd) in the Journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, was carried out using the High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.), an array of four telescopes, in Namibia, South-West Africa.
The Galactic Centre harbours a number of potential gamma-ray sources, including a supermassive black hole, remnants of supernova explosions and possibly an accumulation of exotic ‘dark matter’ particles, each of which should emit the radiation slightly differently. The radiation observed by the H.E.S.S. team comes from a region very near Sagittarius A*, the black hole at the centre of the galaxy. According to most theories of dark matter, it is too energetic to have been created by the annihilation of dark matter particles. The observed energy spectrum best fits theories of the source being a giant supernova explosion, which should produce a constant stream of radiation.
Dr. Paula Chadwick of the University of Durham, UK said, “We know that a giant supernova exploded in this region 10,000 years ago. Such an explosion could accelerate cosmic gamma rays to the high energies we have seen - a billion times more energy than the radiation used for X-rays in hospitals. But further observations will be needed to determine the exact source.”
Julia Maddock | alfa
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