Scientists have confirmed the presence of cosmic neutrinos buried deep with Antarctic’s ice sheets. These tiny, energetic particles called neutrinos could have arrived from galaxies such as our Milky Way and beyond.
The IceCube Neutrino Observatory, located near the South Pole helped in this discovery. The observatory has dozens of shafts that reach up to 8,000 feet deep, and its detectors can scan the ice for invisible matter. Cosmic neutrinos are believed to originate from black holes, supernovas and energetic cores of galaxies. These subatomic particles have almost no mass and they pass though the bodies at an infinite pace, at every second of the day.
“These neutrinos may give us an understanding about the origin of the most energetic processes in the universe,” said scientists.
The discovery given an important hint to researchers that neutrinos are nearby. Researchers at IceCube Neutrino Observatory explained that they travel slowly in ice because the speed of light is constant only in empty space. The team analyzed neutrinos hitting the Earth from other directions, and found that they were not tied to the planet’s orbit or rotation. Thus, their source could not be located in the Milky Way. The scientific observatory has detected over 35,000 neutrinos since 2010. About 20 of these high-energy particles were believed to have cosmic origins while the rest was created when the cosmic rays interacted with our planet’s atmosphere.
“Looking for muon neutrinos reaching the detector through the Earth is the way IceCube was supposed to do neutrino astronomy and it has delivered,” explains Francis Halzen, a UW-Madison professor of physics and the principal investigator of IceCube. “This is as close to independent confirmation as one can get with a unique instrument.”
Senior researcher Albrecht Karle said that the energy of those 20 muon neutrinos indicated their extragalactic origin. These special kinds of neutrinos are called as muon neutrinos as they come from the opposite direction compared with other neutrinos discovered in previous phases.
The discovery could begin a new chapter on particle physics, helping scientists to find the early secrets, physical processes and evolution of the universe. The study has been published in the journal Physical Review Letters on Thursday.