Feeds

Supernova revealed in gamma rays

Quicker than a ray of light

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

An international team of astronomers has produced the first ever picture of a supernova using gamma rays. The picture provides evidence that supernovae are one source of cosmic rays, highly energetic particles that bombard the planet, passing through us in their thousands every day.

Making an image using gamma radiation is very difficult because it is so penetrating - i.e. it passes through nearly everything. However, in this case astronomers have used Cherenkov radiation, flashes of blue light that last mere billionths of a second, to make the image.

Gamma rays from a supernova

Cherenkov radiation is caused by a charged particle exceeding the speed of light in the medium through which it travels - in this case by gamma rays interacting with the atmosphere. That doesn't mean the absolute speed of light has been exceeded, just that the gamma rays are moving so fast that they are going faster then the speed of light in the atmosphere.

Dr Paula Chadwick of the University of Durham said: "This picture really is a big step forward for gamma-ray astronomy and the supernova remnant is a fascinating object. If you had gamma-ray eyes and were in the Southern Hemisphere, you could see a large, brightly glowing ring in the sky every night."

The picture was taken using the High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.), an array of four telescopes, in Namibia, South-West Africa. The UK's involvement is funded by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, PPARC.

PPARC's Professor Ian Halliday commented: "These results provide the first unequivocal proof that supernovae are capable of producing large quantities of galactic cosmic rays - something we have long suspected, but never been able to confirm." ®

Related stories

NASA re-schedules Swift launch
X-ray fireworks could signal supernovae
Smart telescopes probe galactic mysteries

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.