NEW YORK: Black holes have always attracted astronomers. Now NASA may have solved a great mystery, when their X-ray telescope found that the super massive black hole in the Milky Way is producing uncharged subatomic particles called neutrinos.
The astronomers observed that the great black hole in the center of our galaxy may have been spewing out the neutral particles, potentially solving the key mystery of cosmic ray production and how the universe operates. If the discovery is confirmed, it would be the first time that the mysterious particles have ever been traced back to a black hole.
A press release details that the evidence came from three NASA satellites the Chandra X-ray Observatory, Swift gamma-ray burst mission and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) which observe in X-ray light. The researchers found that neutrino production came within a few days of intense flares. “Thus, the determination that some events occur at similar times as X-ray flares and others occur in a burst could be the smoking gun that Sagittarius A* is a point source of very high energy neutrinos”, detailed the study. Neutrinos are very hard to detect, but NASA’s Ice Cube observatory located beneath the South Pole has actually detected 36 high-energy neutrino particles since 2010.
Scientists have long been searching for an explanation to the origin of the energetic particles, as Earth is constantly bombarded with them by the sun. “We checked to see what happened after Chandra witnessed the biggest outburst ever detected from Sagittarius A*, the Milky Way’s super massive black hole”, explained study co-author Andrea Peterson, of the University of Wisconsin. “And less than three hours later, there was neutrino detection at Ice Cube”. Co-author Amy Barger added, It would be a very big deal if we find out that Sagittarius A* produces neutrinos. It’s a very promising lead to follow”.
The University of California, Irvine (UCI) states that neutrinos are very similar to electrons; however they do not carry an electrical charge. Also, unlike electrons, they are not affected by electromagnetic forces and therefore can travel great distances across the universe without being absorbed or deflected by intervening matter.
Currently, there are three known types of the high-energy particles and they are identified as the most fundamental in the makeup of the universe, however unfortunately they are the least understood. “We now have the first evidence that an astronomical source the Milky Way’s super massive black hole may be producing these very energetic neutrinos”, said co-author Yang Bai. “Figuring out where high-energy neutrinos come from is one of the biggest problems in astrophysics today”.
The question still remains as to how the black hole actually produces the neutrinos. One theory details that the particles were accelerated by a shock wave, similar to a sonic boom, producing charged particles that radioactively decay and become neutrinos a nuclear reaction that takes place in the sun too.