Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences discover the first cosmic ray superaccelerator



China, February 26, 2024 (ATB Digital). A team of scientists from the Institute of High Energy Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has discovered the first cosmic ray superaccelerator, a source of energetic particles of great importance to astrophysics.

This discovery, made in collaboration with the Chinese Lhaaso Observatory (Large High-Altitude Air Shower Observatory), which studies high-energy cosmic rays, is located in the star formation region of Cygnus and opens new possibilities for understanding the origin of these astronomical phenomena in the Milky Way. road.

Using Lasso, researchers discovered a giant bubble of ultra-high-energy gamma rays (more than 10 peta electron volts) in the constellation Cygnus, state broadcaster CGTN reported on Monday.

Inside the bubble, photons with energies higher than 1 PeV were observed, the largest of which was 2.5 PeV, confirming the existence of a superaccelerator capable of propelling particles up to 20 PeV and injecting them into interstellar space.

The bubble has been identified as Cygnus OB2, a massive star cluster containing young, hot, and extremely bright stars, as a possible source of the acceleration, according to an article published in the journal Science Bulletin.

The radiation and stellar winds from these stars create an ideal environment for accelerating particles to extraordinary energies.

This discovery represents a milestone in astrophysics, as it is the first time that a cosmic ray superaccelerator has been identified.

Cosmic rays are charged particles that come from outer space, and are mainly composed of protons.

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The origin of cosmic rays constitutes one of the most important problems in contemporary astrophysics.

This discovery was made possible thanks to LASSO's high sensitivity, which allows the origin and spread of these particles to be precisely monitored.

The observatory, which officially began operations in May 2023 under the sponsorship of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the government of Central Sichuan Province, was given the green light for construction in 2015.

It has an area of ​​1.36 square kilometers, is located in a mountainous area in Sichuan at an altitude of 4,410 meters above sea level, and is used to analyze the physics of cosmic rays, as well as to study the origins of acceleration and propagation. of radiation with high levels of accuracy.

During the early stages of its operation, LASSO has already made some progress: in October 2022, a group of Chinese astronomers used it to detect the most powerful gamma-ray bursts ever recorded.

High-energy cosmic rays were discovered at the beginning of the 20th century, and although it is still unknown how they form, scientists believe that by studying them they can begin to understand the natural mechanisms of accelerating particles to speeds beyond human reach.

Source: Correio del Sur

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