Neutrino Observation Points to One Source of High-Energy Cosmic Rays

July 12, 2018

July 12, 2018 — Observations made by researchers using a National Science Foundation (NSF) detector at the South Pole and verified by ground- and space-based telescopes have produced the first evidence of one source of high-energy cosmic neutrinos. These ghostly subatomic particles can travel unhindered for billions of light-years, journeying to Earth from some of the most extreme environments in the universe.

Data gathered by NSF’s IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the foundation’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica point to an answer to a more than century-old riddle about the origins of high-energy cosmic rays.

That the detection was confirmed by other instruments, including an orbiting telescope operated by NASA, is a demonstration of the value of the emerging field of “multi-messenger astronomy,” which describes the ability to marshal instruments globally to make and verify discoveries by combining data from messenger signals that reveal information about the universe.

“The era of multi-messenger astrophysics is here,” said NSF Director France Córdova. “Each messenger — from electromagnetic radiation, gravitational waves and now neutrinos — gives us a more complete understanding of the universe, and important new insights into the most powerful objects and events in the sky. Such breakthroughs are only possible through a long-term commitment to fundamental research and investment in superb research facilities.”

NSF’s IceCube was built by NSF specifically to identify and track high-energy neutrinos. It sighted the first neutrinos from beyond our galaxy in 2013 and since has made numerous fundamental measurements in neutrino astronomy, which helps scientists make sense of matter in its most elementary forms.

The NSF Office of Polar Programs, which manages the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP), and the Physics Division in its Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate jointly oversee the operations of NSF’s IceCube, the world’s largest neutrino detector.

Mysterious origins

Since they were first detected in 1912, cosmic rays have posed an enduring mystery: What creates and propels them across vast distances before they rain down on Earth? Where do they come from?

Cosmic rays are charged particles. This attribute makes tracing their paths back to their points of origin impossible, as the magnetic fields that fill space affect them, altering their trajectories. But the powerful, naturally occurring cosmic accelerators that produce cosmic rays also produce cosmic neutrinos. Neutrinos are uncharged particles, unaffected by even the most powerful magnetic fields. Because they rarely interact with matter and have almost no mass — hence their nickname “ghost particle” — neutrinos travel nearly undisturbed, giving scientists an almost direct pointer to their source.

The group of international researchers that made this most recent discovery traced the path of a single neutrino detected by NSF’s IceCube Sept. 22, 2017 to a previously known but little-studied blazar, the nucleus of a giant galaxy that fires off particles in massive jets of elementary particles, powered by a supermassive black hole at its core. Astronomers had designated this blazar as TXS 0506+056.

The team published their results in two papers this week (July 13) in the journal Science.

“The evidence for the observation of the first known source of high-energy neutrinos and cosmic rays is compelling,” said Francis Halzen, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of physics and the lead scientist for the IceCube Neutrino Observatory.

Equipped with a relatively new alert system — triggered when neutrinos of very high energies crash into an atomic nucleus in or near NSF’s IceCube detector — the observatory sent coordinates to telescopes worldwide less than a minute after detection for follow-up observations.

Two gamma-ray telescopes, NASA’s orbiting Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope — which had already observed enhanced gamma-ray activity from the direction of the blazar during its regular scans of the entire sky every three hours — and the Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov Telescopes (MAGIC) in the Canary Islands, looked in the direction provided by NSF’s IceCube. They detected a flare of high-energy gamma rays associated with TXS 0506+056. The convergence of multi-messenger observations identified the blazar as the source.

High-energy particles

Fermi was the first telescope to identify enhanced gamma-ray activity from TXS 0506+056 within 0.06 degrees of the IceCube neutrino direction. Over a decade of Fermi observations of this source, this was the strongest flare in gamma rays, the highest-energy photons. A later follow-up by MAGIC detected gamma rays of even higher energies.

High-energy gamma rays can be produced either by accelerated electrons or protons. The observation of a neutrino, a hallmark of proton interactions, is the first definitive evidence of proton acceleration by black holes.

“Now, we have identified at least one source of cosmic rays because it produces cosmic neutrinos,” Halzen said. “Neutrinos are the decay products of pions. In order to produce them, you need a proton accelerator.”

The observations prove that TXS 056+056 is among the most luminous sources in the known universe and thus add support to a multi-messenger observation of a cosmic engine powerful enough to accelerate high-energy cosmic rays and produce the associated neutrinos. One of these neutrinos, out of many millions that sailed through Antarctica’s ice, was captured by NSF’s IceCube Sept. 22.

Following the Sept. 22 detection, the IceCube team quickly scoured the detector’s archival data — NSF’s IceCube is always on and looking in all directions, including through the Earth to the sky in the Northern Hemisphere — and discovered a flare of neutrinos from December 2014, coincident with the same blazar, TXS 0506+056, which scientists have nicknamed “the Texas source.”

That independent observation greatly strengthens the initial detection of a single, high-energy neutrino and adds to a growing body of data that indicates that the blazar is the first known source of high-energy neutrinos and high-energy cosmic rays.

Neutrino detection methods

The crystal-clear ice beneath the South Pole provides the medium that allows NSF’s IceCube to document the interaction of neutrinos with terrestrial matter. Collisions between high-energy neutrinos and atomic nuclei are very rare but produce an unmistakable signature — a characteristic cone of blue light that is mapped through the detector’s grid of 5,000 photomultiplier tubes.

When a neutrino slams into the nucleus of an atom, it creates one or more secondary charged particles, which, in turn, create the blue light. Because the charged particle and light it creates stay essentially true to the neutrino’s direction, it gives scientists a path to follow back to a source.

NSF’s IceCube observatory is operated by an international collaboration that includes more than 300 scientists from 49 different institutions in 12 countries. The observatory is part of the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center, based at the University of Wisconsin. The center brings together scientific, engineering, computing and educational resources around the theme of particle astrophysics.

The NSF-managed USAP built and maintains the IceCube observatory in one of the world’s harshest environments. The need to ship all of the components to build the detector in the holds of military cargo aircraft, as well as the development of hot-water drilling techniques required to install instruments into the ice sheet, make NSF’s IceCube, which became operational in 2010, the culmination of a uniquely challenging scientific and logistical endeavor.

NSF provided approximately $242 million of the total cost of building IceCube, while other partners provided an additional $37 million. NSF also provides $7 million annually to operate and maintain the facility.

About 20 observatories on Earth and in space have participated in this discovery. The observations across the electromagnetic spectrum, listed alphabetically by project for the given wavelength, include: gamma-rays by the space missions AGILE, INTEGRAL, and Fermi and ground-based telescopes HAWC in Mexico, H.E.S.S. in Namibia, MAGIC in Spain, and VERITAS in the U.S.; X-rays, optical, and radio radiation by space missions MAXI, NuSTAR, and Swift and ground-based observatories ASAS-SN in Chile and the U.S., GTC in Spain, Kanata in Japan, Kapteyn in Spain and the U.S, Kiso in Japan, Liverpool in Spain, OVRO in the U.S., SALT in South Africa, Subaru in Japan, and VLA in the U.S; and neutrinos by ANTARES in France. These observatories are run by international teams with a total of over a thousand scientists supported by funding agencies in countries around the world. Several follow-up observations are detailed in a few other papers that are also released today.


Source: NSF

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

InfiniBand Still Tops in Supercomputing

July 19, 2018

In the competitive global HPC landscape, system and processor vendors, nations and end user sites certainly get a lot of attention--deservedly so--but more than ever, the network plays a crucial role. While fast, perform Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC for Life: Genomics, Brain Research, and Beyond

July 19, 2018

During the past few decades, the life sciences have witnessed one landmark discovery after another with the aid of HPC, paving the way toward a new era of personalized treatments based on an individual’s genetic makeup Read more…

By Warren Froelich

WCRP’s New Strategic Plan for Climate Research Highlights the Importance of HPC

July 19, 2018

As climate modeling increasingly leverages exascale computing and researchers warn of an impending computing gap in climate research, the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) is developing its new Strategic Plan – and high-performance computing is slated to play a critical role. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Introducing the First Integrated System Management Software for HPC Clusters from HPE

How do you manage your complex, growing cluster environments? Answer that big challenge with the new HPC cluster management solution: HPE Performance Cluster Manager. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Are Your Software Licenses Impeding Your Productivity?

In my previous article, Improving chip yield rates with cognitive manufacturing, I highlighted the costs associated with semiconductor manufacturing, and how cognitive methods can yield benefits in both design and manufacture.  Read more…

U.S. Exascale Computing Project Releases Software Technology Progress Report

July 19, 2018

As is often noted the race to exascale computing isn’t just about hardware. This week the U.S. Exascale Computing Project (ECP) released its latest Software Technology (ST) Capability Assessment Report detailing progress so far. Read more…

By John Russell

InfiniBand Still Tops in Supercomputing

July 19, 2018

In the competitive global HPC landscape, system and processor vendors, nations and end user sites certainly get a lot of attention--deservedly so--but more than Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC for Life: Genomics, Brain Research, and Beyond

July 19, 2018

During the past few decades, the life sciences have witnessed one landmark discovery after another with the aid of HPC, paving the way toward a new era of perso Read more…

By Warren Froelich

D-Wave Breaks New Ground in Quantum Simulation

July 16, 2018

Last Friday D-Wave scientists and colleagues published work in Science which they say represents the first fulfillment of Richard Feynman’s 1982 notion that Read more…

By John Russell

AI Thought Leaders on Capitol Hill

July 14, 2018

On Thursday, July 12, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology heard from four academic and industry leaders – representatives from Berkeley Lab, Argonne Lab, GE Global Research and Carnegie Mellon University – on the opportunities springing from the intersection of machine learning and advanced-scale computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Serves as a ‘Rosetta Stone’ for the Information Age

July 12, 2018

In an age defined and transformed by its data, several large-scale scientific instruments around the globe might be viewed as a ‘mother lode’ of precious data. With names seemingly created for a ‘techno-speak’ glossary, these interferometers, cyclotrons, sequencers, solenoids, satellite altimeters, and cryo-electron microscopes are churning out data in previously unthinkable and seemingly incomprehensible quantities -- billions, trillions and quadrillions of bits and bytes of electro-magnetic code. Read more…

By Warren Froelich

Tsinghua Powers Through ISC18 Field

July 10, 2018

Tsinghua University topped all other competitors at the ISC18 Student Cluster Competition with an overall score of 88.43 out of 100. This gives Tsinghua their s Read more…

By Dan Olds

HPE, EPFL Launch Blue Brain 5 Supercomputer

July 10, 2018

HPE and the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausannne (EPFL) Blue Brain Project yesterday introduced Blue Brain 5, a new supercomputer built by HPE, which displ Read more…

By John Russell

Pumping New Life into HPC Clusters, the Case for Liquid Cooling

July 10, 2018

High Performance Computing (HPC) faces some daunting challenges in the coming years as traditional, industry-standard systems push the boundaries of data center Read more…

By Scott Tease

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17

Altair

AMD @ SC17

AMD

ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack

CEJN @ SC17

CEJN

DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17

Huawei

IBM @ SC17

IBM

IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17

Intel

Lenovo @ SC17

Lenovo

Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17

Microsoft

Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17

Supericro

Tyan @ SC17

Tyan

Univa @ SC17

Univa

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This