'Ghost particles' discovered by icy observatory in the Milky Way

A detector at the South Pole that is embedded in ice is the IceCube observatory

A previously unseen view of our Galaxy has been made possible by an astronomical detector buried in Antarctic ice.

The Milky Way is depicted in the blurry, amazing image, but it is made up of "ghostly" particles that are released by the reactions that fuel stars.

Neutrinos are the particles, and they are very challenging to find on Earth.

A sizable chunk of Antarctic ice was used as a detector by researchers to find them.

According to Prof. Subir Sarkar from the University of Oxford, "We are seeing our Galaxy for the first time using particles rather than photons [of light].". According to him, this offers a glimpse of the "high energy processes that shape our Galaxy.".

As astronomical messengers pointing to those fundamental processes, neutrinos can be considered. When cosmic rays, which are moving at close to the speed of light, collide with other matter, they produce them.

In essence, recording those collisions means recording neutrinos. And that's not simple.

One of the individual neutrino detectors - suspended in the ice on a cable
There are thousands of individual neutrino detectors hanging from cables in the ice.

Prof. Sarkar described the neutrino as a "ghostly particle" that is essentially almost massless. Since they are practically traveling at the speed of light, they might pass through the Galaxy without coming into contact with anything. That is why you need a large detector to be able to see them. ".

The detector is known as IceCube, and it was created by engineers and scientists. It is made up of thousands of sensors mounted on lengthy cables that have been drilled into a 1 km3 block of ice and then frozen. Near the South Pole, the entire array is buried.

Every time a neutrino engages with one of the countless ice molecules, the interaction is recorded.

In essence, we can reconstruct the direction from which the neutrino originated by knowing which sensor is activated and when. " .

The discovery, which was reported in the journal Science, is said by the scientists to be a completely new window on our Galaxy.

An artist's concept of our Galaxy, created using astronomical data
Our Galaxy as depicted by an artist using astronomical data.

Since astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that the Milky Way was one of millions of galaxies and that it was our location in a vast Universe, it has been a century.

People have been researching it for thousands of years, according to Prof. Naoko Kurahashi Neilson, a physicist at Drexel University in Philadelphia and a member of the IceCube team. "We've observed it in a variety of light wavelengths, including radio waves and gamma rays, but since the beginning of time, it has always been in electromagnetic radiation. in every photon or light wavelength. " .

According to her statement to BBC News, this is the first "map" of our galaxy in a medium [other than light]. "It will imply that we can begin better comprehending the physical processes in the Milky Way. ".

The IceCube observatory - a detector frozen into ice at the South Pole
The information was gathered by the South Pole-based IceCube observatory, a detector embedded in ice.

Prof. Kurahashi Neilson added that the group would spend the following five to ten years attempting to respond to queries that "we can finally ask."

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