Astronomers for the first time have managed to hunt down the source of three high-energy ray signals being emitted beyond our Milky Way. The hope is that this discovery might help us better understand the mysterious origins of deadly cosmic rays that flood the universe and bombard our solar system.
Cosmic rays are believed to be produced by some of the most violent events in the cosmos – like supernova explosions – and are a billion times more powerful than anything created in our supercolliders here on Earth. They constantly flood our solar system and appear to come from every direction in the universe.
So not surprisingly, finding their sources has been near impossible because these charged particles get bounced around in all directions in space by the magnetic fields they encounter as they fly across interstellar space. However, a team of astronomers has now found a way to help us in our hunt. It turns out cosmic rays do also produce a convenient tracer particle called gamma-rays, which don’t get deflected along their travels, and so by tracing back their journey, their origins can be be found much more easily.
In this new research, the newfound gamma-ray signals appear to be produced at prodigious rates by three different types of objects located within a single satellite galaxy of the Milky Way some 180,000 light years away from Earth known as the Large Magellanic Cloud.
In the newly-published study this week in the journal Science, researchers used the High Energy Stereoscopic System (HESS) – a collection of four 13-meter telescopes located in the deserts of Namibia, Africa – to observe a region of our companion galaxy that is actively forming stars.
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The article does mention periods of intense bombardment by cosmic radiation could have an impact on the climate, as the sun shields us from many cosmic radiation, but as the sun goes quiet, with fewer sunspots, more cosmic rays will reach the earth’s atmosphere, where some scientist think they cause the formation of more clouds, thus cooling the planet. Stay tuned. This will be an interesting story to follow.