Way out there in space is a class of objects called blazars. Think of them as extreme particle accelerators, able to marshall energies a million times stronger than the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. It turns out they’re the culprits in one of the great astrophysical mysteries: what creates and propels neutrinos across the universe at blazingly fast speeds? It turns out that the answer’s been there all along: blazars pump out neutrinos and cosmic rays. That’s the conclusion a group of astronomers led by Dr. Sara Buson of Universität Wurzburg in Germany came to as they studied data from a very unique facility here on Earth: the IceCube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica.
Understanding The Origins of Speed Demon Particles
Neutrinos are odd little ducks in the astrophysical zoo. They come from cosmic ray interactions in blazars and have very little mass. Neutrinos don’t interact with matter as they whiz through the cosmos, which means they travel through galaxies and planets. They even blast through you as you sit here and read this, and leave very little evidence of their passage. Luckily, that last characteristic means they can be traced back to their sources since electromagnetic forces don’t even faze them.
The IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole. It detected neutrinos and helped astronomers trace them to blazars. Credit: Emanuel Jacobi/NSF.
So, how did Buson and her team find the places where neutrinos are born? They turned to IceCube, which is buried deep in the ice at the South Pole. It’s the most sensitive neutrino detector on the planet. It searches for these nearly massless subatomic particles—which astronomers also like to call astrophysical messengers. That’s because they carry information about violent astrophysical events and sources–like black holes, neutron stars—and blazars.
In 2017, IceCube detected a neutrino from the blazar TXS 0506+056. It’s the active nucleus of a distant galaxy that is brighter than its entire galaxy. The data carried by the neutrino told the team that it had come from the heart of that blazar and traveled across 5.7 billion light-years to get measured by IceCube. It doesn’t just send out neutrinos—it’s also a bright radio source and pumps out light across the electromagnetic spectrum. (For the stargazers among us, this blazar lies in the direction of the left shoulder of the constellation Orion.)
Of course, TXS 0506+056 isn’t the only source of neutrinos (aside from the Sun, for example). IceCube found 19 “hotspots” in the southern sky. At least ten of them are very likely blazars. “The results provide, for the first time, incontrovertible observational evidence that the sub-sample of PeVatron blazars are extragalactic neutrino sources and thus cosmic ray accelerators,” Buson said in a press release statement.
PeVatron blazars speed up particles up to at least PeV energies. PeV is short for “peta electron volt” and is 1015 electron-volts. To give you an idea of how powerful that is, the Large Hadron Collider achieved slightly more than 1 PeV in 2015.
Neutrinos and Multi-messenger Astronomy
These nearly massless, high-speed cosmic rays and neutrinos are the latest “messengers” from the distant universe. For a long time, astronomers used light to study the universe. But, it’s not the only messenger out there that can teach us about the stars, planets, galaxies, black holes, and other objects in the cosmic zoo. Neutrinos, cosmic rays, and gravitational waves provide other message ways carrying valuable information about distant astrophysical events and objects.
According to team member Marco Ajello of Clemson University, multi-messenger astronomy adds immeasurably to our understanding of the universe. “It’s like feeling, hearing, and seeing at the same time. You’ll get a much better understanding,” he said. “The same is true in astrophysics because the insight you have from multiple detections of different messengers is much more detailed than you can get from only light.”
The data provided by neutrinos and other messengers from the distant universe point the way to a better understanding of
Juice is Fully Deployed. It’s Now in its Final Form, Ready to Meet Jupiter’s Moons in 2031
Launched on April 14, 2023, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (Juice; formerly known as JUICE) spacecraft has finally completed the unfurling of its solar panel arrays and plethora of booms, probes, and antennae while en route to the solar system’s largest planet.
However, Juice’s first six weeks in space haven’t been so smooth, as its Radar for Ice Moons Exploration (RIME) antenna became stuck and unable to deploy, but the engineers successfully deployed RIME after working the problem for over a month. The RIME unit is deemed as “mission critical” since its purpose is to map underneath the icy crusts of Jupiter’s three icy worlds: Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.
“It’s been an exhausting but very exciting six weeks,” said Angela Dietz, who is the deputy spacecraft operations manager for the Juice mission. “We have faced and overcome various challenges to get Juice into the right shape for getting the best science out of its trip to Jupiter.”
The unfurling of the booms and antennae are crucial as they house either some or all of Juice’s 10 instruments, which comprise various scientific packages: the remote sensing package, the in situ package, and the geophysical package. Along with these incredible instruments, Juice will also be conducting an experiment known as the Planetary Radio Interferometer & Doppler Experiment (PRIDE), whose goal will be to use very-long baseline and ground-based interferometry to accurately measure Juice’s velocity and location in space.
This incredible cache of instruments will be responsible for exploring Jupiter while conducting 35 flybys of Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto, which are each hypothesized to contain bodies of liquid water beneath their icy crusts. Aside from the moons, Juice will also conduct further examinations of the entire Jupiter system, as scientists hypothesize this could help paint a clearer picture of gas giant exoplanets—and possible exomoons that have yet to be detected—that continue to be discovered throughout the galaxy.
Of the 10 Juice instruments, three stand out as some of the most important to the mission. These include the previously discussed RIME antenna, which will be responsible for mapping the interior environments of these icy worlds; the JANUS optical camera instrument, which will be able to capture images in 13 different colors, ranging from violet light to near infrared, and will be imaging Jupiter’s innermost Galilean moon, Io, as well; and the Radio & Plasma Wave Investigation (RPWI) instrument, which will be responsible for producing the first-ever 3D map of Jupiter’s electric fields and the interactions between Jupiter’s massive magnetosphere and the icy worlds of Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.
Cutaway illustration depicting the interior of Europa. Mapping this interior will be one of the goals of the Juice mission using its RIME antenna. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Michael Carroll)
Artist rendition of Jupiter’s enormous magnetic field. Producing the first-ever 3D map of Jupiter’s electric fields and the interactions between Jupiter’s massive magnetosphere and its icy worlds will be one of the goals of the Juice mission using its RPWI instrument. (Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)
“Our 3D design strategy makes it possible to measure true physical observables, such as energy and momentum, without resorting to theories or simulations to interpret the data,” said Jan Bergman, who is a Senior Scientists at the Swedish Institute
Did you miss our previous article…
15 Great Backpacking Trips You Can Still Take in 2023
By Michael Lanza
So you didn’t plan months in advance to reserve a permit for backpacking this summer in Glacier, Yosemite, on the Teton Crest Trail, Wonderland Trail, or John Muir Trail or in another popular national park? Or you applied for a permit but got rejected? Now what? Where can you still go this year?
You’re in luck. This story describes 15 backpacking trips you can still plan and take this year—either because they don’t require a permit reservation or, in the case of Yosemite, North Cascades, and Olympic national parks, you can still obtain a backcountry permit reservation for many summer dates and trails, where one is required.
Six of them are in top-tier national parks, and the others are all multi-day wilderness hikes with national park-caliber scenery. They all possess qualities that make them stand out in personal memory among the countless adventures I’ve enjoyed over the past three-plus decades, including the 10 years I spent as Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog.
Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.
A backpacker hiking the Shannon Pass Trail, Wind River Range, WY.
” data-image-caption=”My wife, Penny, backpacking the Shannon Pass Trail in Wyoming’s Wind River Range.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/Wind8-049-My-wife-Penny-backpacking-toward-Shannon-Pass-Wind-River-Range-WY..jpg?fit=300%2C200&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/Wind8-049-My-wife-Penny-backpacking-toward-Shannon-Pass-Wind-River-Range-WY..jpg?fit=900%2C600&ssl=1″ decoding=”async” width=”900″ height=”600″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/Wind8-049-My-wife-Penny-backpacking-toward-Shannon-Pass-Wind-River-Range-WY..jpg?resize=900%2C600&ssl=1″ alt=”A backpacker hiking the Shannon Pass Trail, Wind River Range, WY.” class=”wp-image-58505″ srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/Wind8-049-My-wife-Penny-backpacking-toward-Shannon-Pass-Wind-River-Range-WY..jpg?resize=1024%2C683&ssl=1 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/Wind8-049-My-wife-Penny-backpacking-toward-Shannon-Pass-Wind-River-Range-WY..jpg?resize=300%2C200&ssl=1 300w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/Wind8-049-My-wife-Penny-backpacking-toward-Shannon-Pass-Wind-River-Range-WY..jpg?resize=768%2C512&ssl=1 768w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/Wind8-049-My-wife-Penny-backpacking-toward-Shannon-Pass-Wind-River-Range-WY..jpg?resize=150%2C100&ssl=1 150w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/Wind8-049-My-wife-Penny-backpacking-toward-Shannon-Pass-Wind-River-Range-WY..jpg?w=1200&ssl=1 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />My wife, Penny, backpacking the Shannon Pass Trail in Wyoming’s Wind River Range.
If you don’t want to miss your opportunity to get into the wilderness this year, scroll through this list and start the gears turning to make one of these trips happen. You know that you’ll be glad you did.
Each trip described below includes a link to my full story about it, which
Did you miss our previous article…
Starship | First Integrated Flight Test | Recap
Starship gave us quite a show during the first flight test of a fully integrated Starship (S24) and Super Heavy rocket (B7) from Starbase in Texas.
On April 20, 2023 at 8:33 a.m. CT, Starship successfully lifted off from the orbital launch pad for the first time. The vehicle cleared the pad and beach as Starship climbed to an apogee of ~39 km over the Gulf of Mexico – the highest of any Starship to-date.
With a test like this, success comes from what we learn, and we learned a tremendous amount about the vehicle and ground systems today that will help us improve on future flights of Starship.
Did you miss our previous article…
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