Feeds

Black holes blamed for super-charged cosmic rays

That's 'active galactic nuclei' to you, sonny

Security for virtualized datacentres

You've always suspected it*, and now some properly clever boffins think they've found the data to prove it. Yes, a rare breed of supermassive black hole, otherwise known as active galactic nuclei, are the most likely source of the super-charged cosmic rays that batter our tiny planet from time to time.

The particles zip through space at just a shave away from the speed of light, carrying astonishing amounts of energy, roughly 100 million times that of the most energetic particle ever created in an accelerator on Earth. The challenge facing scientists was to find a way that a particle could become imbued with such huge energies.

They don't hit us very often, relative to their less energetic cousins, with roughly one particle per square kilometre, per century hitting the planet, Scientific American reports.

Reports of the research variously have the rays striking our upper atmosphere with the force of a fast pitch baseball (whatever that might be...), the energy of a nicely hit tennis ball, or the punch of a rifle shot. (That's all very well, but what is it in Norrises, right?)

A group called the Pierre Auger Collaboration, composed of almost 400 scientists from 17 countries, says it has now found evidence that points the finger at the supermassive black holes that lie at the centre of some galaxies.

The researchers used a network of 1,400 particle detectors spread over an area of 1,200 square miles (0.144 times the size of Wales, in Register standard units), along with 24 ground based telescopes scattered across western Argentina.

The size of the observation grid has allowed the team to catch plenty of the rare rays in the act, and track them back to their sources. Of the millions of rays that flew into our planet since the grid went online in 2004, 77 qualified as super-charged. Of these, the 27 most energetic were traced back to areas of the sky with active galactic nuclei.

James Cronin, a Nobel-prize winning physicist at the University of Chicago and the co-founder of the Auger observatory told the New York Times: "The age of cosmic-ray astronomy has arrived. We're only just getting started."

The work is published in the current issue of Science. ®

*What do you mean, you never gave it a moment's thought?

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
Ex-Soviet engines fingered after Antares ROCKET launch BLAST
Speculation rife, but Orbital claims it's too early to tell
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
NASA: Spacecraft crash site FOUND ON MOON RIM
'What fun!' exlaims NASA boffin who found the LADEE
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Mitigating web security risk with SSL certificates
Web-based systems are essential tools for running business processes and delivering services to customers.