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Cosmic Rays

Cosmic Rays from Mysterious Source Bombarding Earth

19 Nov , 2008

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Scientists have discovered an unidentified source of high-energy cosmic rays bombarding Earth from space. They say it must be close to the solar system and it could be made of dark matter. “This is a big discovery,” says John Wefel of Louisiana State University and Principal Investigator for ATIC, Advanced Thin Ionization Calorimeter, a NASA funded balloon-borne instrument high over Antarctica. “It’s the first time we’ve seen a discrete source of accelerated cosmic rays standing out from the general galactic background.”

The new results show an unexpected surplus of cosmic ray electrons at very high energy — 300-800 billion electron volts — that must come from a previously unidentified source or from the annihilation of very exotic theoretical particles used to explain dark matter.

“This electron excess cannot be explained by the standard model of cosmic ray origin,” said Wefel. “There must be another source relatively near us that is producing these additional particles.”

According to the research, this source would need to be within about 3,000 light years of the sun. It could be an exotic object such as a pulsar, mini-quasar, supernova remnant or an intermediate mass black hole.

“Cosmic ray electrons lose energy during their journey through the galaxy,” said Jim Adams, ATIC research lead at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. “These losses increase with the energy of the electrons. At the energies measured by our instrument, these energy losses suppress the flow of particles from distant sources, which helps nearby sources stand out.”

The scientists point out, however, that there are few such objects close to our solar system.

“These results may be the first indication of a very interesting object near our solar system waiting to be studied by other instruments,” Wefel said.

ATIC high-energy electron counts. Credit: J. Chang et al.

ATIC high-energy electron counts. Credit: J. Chang et al.


An alternative explanation is that the surplus of high energy electrons might result from the annihilation of very exotic particles put forward to explain dark matter. In recent decades, scientists have learned that the kind of material making up the universe around us only accounts for about five percent of its mass composition. Close to 70 percent of the universe is composed of dark energy (so called because its nature is unknown). The remaining 25 percent of the mass acts gravitationally just like regular matter, but does little else, so it is normally not visible.

The nature of dark matter is not understood, but several theories that describe how gravity works at very small, quantum distances predict exotic particles that could be good dark matter candidates.

“The annihilation of these exotic particles with each other would produce normal particles such as electrons, positrons, protons and antiprotons that can be observed by scientists,” said Eun-Suk Seo, ATIC lead at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The 4,300-pound ATIC experiment is carried to an altitude of about 124,000 feet above Antarctica using a helium-filled balloon about as large as the interior of the New Orleans Superdome. The goal of the project is to study cosmic rays that otherwise would be absorbed into the atmosphere.

Researchers from ATIC published the results in the Nov. 20 issue of the journal Nature.

Sources: NASA, [email protected]


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quantum_flux
Member
November 19, 2008 6:23 PM

smile Maybe aliens are playing a game of “Flying Saucer Pull” with scotch tape?

quantum_flux
Member
November 19, 2008 6:27 PM

…. nearby a metallic planet of course, perhaps the charge builds up so high from their “Flying Saucer Pull” game that electrons shoot through the interseller plasma at high speeds sending off cosmic rays to us.

Maxwell
Member
Maxwell
November 19, 2008 4:29 PM

Maybe its Planet X! >:p

Its a curious sounding situation which, unfortunately, I don’t fully understand.
It sounds like we’re seeing the output of matter behaving in a manner we cannot observe otherwise… which could be a mind blowing thing.

Maybe dark matter/energy isn’t so dark after all.

Phillipee
Member
Phillipee
November 19, 2008 5:21 PM

Oh man, we’re all going to die!!

What the heck is a “Advanced Thin Ionization Calorimeter”??

Too bad we need “Exotic particles” to explain things…

Cody
Guest
Cody
November 19, 2008 5:56 PM

Maybe aliens use cosmic rays to broadcast their TV, and we’re finally getting their 1936 Olympics (ala Contact).

Any way you slice it though…. LHC – One upped.

Bill
Member
Bill
November 19, 2008 7:11 PM

Why is it that the most surprising thing about this article is, to me, that there is a balloon the size of the Superdome floating 25 Miles over Antarctica ?

James
Guest
James
November 19, 2008 7:25 PM

I thought the same thing Bill.

alienshouting
Guest
alienshouting
November 19, 2008 7:42 PM

Could this finally be the alien signal we have been waiting for, “hello, over here, look already will you, can’t you see our cosmic ray beacon?”

sps
Guest
sps
November 19, 2008 7:57 PM

I think the claim of the balloon may be…. inflated.

John
Guest
John
November 19, 2008 8:33 PM

not after some back of the hand calculations, it appears their volume is proper.

I used wikipedia for temperature and pressure as a function of altitude to get the density of air up there at about 37km, it is approx 47K temp, giving it a density of .000582 kg/m^3

at about 2000kg, the balloon must displace this volume of air to keep the payload afloat, so density=mass/volume plug in and solve for volume you get 2000kg/0.00058 kg/m^3 gives you a volume of about 3400000 m^3.

The superdome has a volume of 3500000 m^3 (google), so with these rough approximations, they are pretty darn close.

Jerry
Guest
Jerry
November 19, 2008 9:04 PM

opps i accidentally your whole planet planet with Cosmic Rays!

staticman
Guest
staticman
November 19, 2008 10:45 PM

smile I roughly calculate that rubbing that balloon with 3400000 sweaters will make it stick to the moon.

Seriously though, I would love to see balloons floating through the clouds of Jupiter and all the other planets that have an atmosphere.

Mehul
Guest
Mehul
November 20, 2008 1:31 AM
Aside from the mention of the balloon over Antarctica, the article failed to mention a few things. Are all the projectiles continuously focused on the same Latitude and Longitude of our Earth? Or do they change as the Earth rotates about its own axis and orbits the sun? If so, can the projectiles be coming from a single source in one direction, or in multiple directions with respect to the location of the sun? Also, does anyone have any idea if the projectiles were always there or have they only started recently? From the ATIC (Advanced Thin Ionization Calorimeter), sun, star, and other sensors aboard the “balloon”, are we able to determine any of that information? Can we… Read more »
vinman
Guest
vinman
November 20, 2008 6:34 AM

could GOD be the source? let’s check our bibles

jerry
Guest
jerry
November 20, 2008 7:28 AM

A galactic source of high energy cosmic rays is a nice find, if it can be collaborated; but they are a little quick on the dark stuff button.

Aodhhan
Member
Aodhhan
November 20, 2008 7:42 AM

I really would like to see more information on this. Unfortunately the whole setup leaves a lot of vagueness for the imagination to run wild. Being unable to be certain which direction the particles are coming from is just one of these vague problems.

Using common sense, since this is at the south pole, it is probable these particles are coming from the sun, and getting collected and charged more from our own magnetic field.
Is there any reason our magnetic field couldn’t funnel and amplify these particles… focusing them onto the polar regions?
I would like to see this sensor launched at other areas on earth, and also launch a separate sensor away from our planet to take control measurements.

Jason Leary
Guest
Jason Leary
November 20, 2008 9:03 AM

Could it be , possibly , that the source of the cosmic rays is itself a living fully conscious being or collection of beings —a case of energy beings (life as we do not know it —as opposed to life as we know it ) ?

ShadowDancer
Member
November 20, 2008 10:22 AM
Mehul Says: November 20th, 2008 at 1:31 am Aside from the mention of the balloon over Antarctica, the article failed to mention a few things. Are all the projectiles continuously focused on the same Latitude and Longitude of our Earth? Or do they change as the Earth rotates about its own axis and orbits the sun? If so, can the projectiles be coming from a single source in one direction, or in multiple directions with respect to the location of the sun? Also, does anyone have any idea if the projectiles were always there or have they only started recently? From the ATIC (Advanced Thin Ionization Calorimeter), sun, star, and other sensors aboard the “balloon”, are we able… Read more »
James
Guest
James
November 20, 2008 11:00 AM

Why is it that over the past year or two when something can’t be quickly explained Dark Matter is thrown in the mix? My company can’t seem to explain why my 401K is down this year, so maybe it’s because of Dark Matter. My kids don’t get good grades in school…Dark Matter. I think if I could buy my wife flowers made out of Dark Matter I would automatically get out of trouble for the rest of my life…

piñol
Guest
piñol
November 20, 2008 11:21 AM

teletransport…

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