The cosmic ray hot spots were identified in the two red-colored regions near the constellation Orion. Courtesy John Pretz, LANL
The cosmic ray hot spots were identified in the two red-colored regions near the constellation Orion. Courtesy John Pretz, LANL

Astronomy, Observatories

Sources of Earth-Bombarding Cosmic Rays May Have Been Located

24 Nov , 2008 by

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Last week’s announcement of a puzzling and unknown source of high energy cosmic rays bombarding the Earth is now joined by another discovery of two sources of unexpected cosmic rays from nearby regions of space. A Los Alamos National Laboratory cosmic-ray observatory has seen for the first time two distinct hot spots that appear to be bombarding Earth with an excess of cosmic rays. “These two results may be due to the same, or different, astrophysical phenomenon, said Jordan Goodman, principal investigator for the Milagro observatory, commenting on last week’s announcement by the ATIC experiment and the new discovery by his team. “However, they both suggest the presence of high-energy particle acceleration in the vicinity of the earth. Our new findings point to general locations for the localized excesses of cosmic-ray protons.” The cosmic rays appear to originate from an area in the sky near the constellation Orion.

Researchers used Los Alamos’ Milagro cosmic-ray observatory to peer into the sky above the northern hemisphere for nearly seven years starting in July 2000. The observatory is unique in that it monitors the entire sky above the northern hemisphere. Because of its design and field of view, Milagro was able to record over 200 billion cosmic-ray collisions with the Earth’s atmosphere.

Cosmic rays are high-energy particles that move through our Galaxy from sources far away. No one knows exactly where cosmic rays come from, but scientists theorize they might originate from supernovae—massive stars that explode— from quasars or perhaps from other exotic, less-understood or yet-to-be-discovered sources within the universe.

“Our observatory is unique in that we can detect events of low enough energies that we were able to record enough cosmic-ray encounters to see a statistically significant fractional excess coming from two distinct regions of the sky,” said collaborator Brenda Dingus.

Because Milagro was able to record so many cosmic-ray events, researchers for the first time were able to see statistical peaks in the number of cosmic-ray events originating from specific regions of the sky near the constellation Orion. The region with the highest hot spot of cosmic rays is a concentrated bulls eye above and to the right visually of Orion, near the constellation Taurus. The other hot spot is a comma-shaped region visually occurring near the constellation Gemini.

But the researchers cannot be sure they have precisely located the sources of the cosmic rays. “Whatever the source of the protons we observed with Milagro, their path to Earth is deflected by the magnetic field of the Milky Way so that we cannot directly tell exactly where they originate,” said Goodman. “And whether the regions of excess seen by Milagro actually point to a source of cosmic rays, or are the result of some other unknown nearby effect is an important question raised by our observations.”

A new, second-generation cosmic ray observatory has been proposed, which may be able to solve the mystery of the origin of cosmic rays. The experiment, named the High Altitude Water Cherenkov experiment (HAWC), would be built at a high-altitude site in Mexico.

Sources: UMD, Science Daily

By  -        
Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today's Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT's Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.


29 Responses

  1. maudyfish says:

    In regard to alien species trying to contact us, scientist say that they may not be able to recognize messages from outer space because we may not be advanced enough yet. Therefore, how do we know for sure that these bombardments of our atmosphere are not signals from another planet?

  2. wcf says:

    Well, high-energy particle beams wouldn’t be a very friendly way to communicate. That would be sort of like firing a gun at someone to get their attention.

  3. Vino says:

    As long as the gun is not at us but at our skies…i guess thats ok!!! 😀

  4. robbb says:

    dear universe,
    thanks for the additional mystery. we will add it to the pile.
    sincerely,
    earthlings

  5. Simon says:

    The Orions belt stars are some 800 light years away. An alien signal would have left long before we developed a capacity to recieve radio.

  6. Simon says:

    or cosmic ray transmissions for that matter

  7. Don Alexander says:

    The source in Taurus… Aldebaran… The Hyades…

    Iä! Iä!

    Carcosa!!

    Along the shore the cloud waves break,
    The twin suns sink behind the lake,
    The shadows lengthen
    In Carcosa.

    Strange is the night where black stars rise,
    And strange moons circle through the skies,
    But stranger still is
    Lost Carcosa.

    Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
    Where flap the tatters of the King,
    Must die unheard in
    Dim Carcosa.

    Song of my soul, my voice is dead,
    Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
    Shall dry and die in
    Lost Carcosa.

    —”Cassilda’s Song” in The King in Yellow Act 1, Scene 2, by Robert W. Chambers

    Sorry, but if other people speculate about aliens communicating via hypergigantic particle accelerators, I can let a bit of Mythos magic flow. 😉

  8. Maxwell says:

    Oddly enough, shooting a gun at someone would get their attention. Especially if you had no other tool at your disposal.
    Radio is a very poor way to communicate between planets, much less stars. Lasers also have their limitations. Radiation may work and, used right, you’re not outputting enough to kill (since its negligible compared to the parent star).
    Still not very efficient tho.

    My pet theory is that space/time may have a few caveats that would be exploited by an advanced society. It might even be possible that the speed of light does not work the way we believe it does under relativity.

    Signals could be zipping right under our nose and, even if we know how, we may still end up none the wiser as to whats being said if anything.

  9. Don Alexander says:

    Well, the energy needed to create such a patch of cosmic rays is utterly tremendous, and, I should think, far beyond any civilization which would not yet have been clearly visible from all kinds of radiation leakage anyway.

    Anything that is able to produce such power should rate at least 2.5, if not 3 on the Kardashev scale (seeing that a single sun-type star can impossibly accelerate such amounts of cosmic rays.)

    I think something like that would be extremely inefficient for communications.

  10. Pluto says:

    Pluto here, you puny earthlings thought you could get away with downgrading us didn’t you? Well EAT COSMIC RAYS!!! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!

  11. Barbara says:

    I have a (two?) question about the sentence: <>

    I suppose that “in the vicinity of the earth” means in the vicinity of our Solar System, is it?
    How far could possibly be these cosmic ray sources? Like a near star? Or a lot more far away?

    I hope there’s someone who could possibly answer to my questions. Thanks so much in advance, and please, be patient with my poor English.

  12. Barbara says:

    In my last comment the quoted sentence is disappeared, I try again to past it, without double quotes:

    However, they both (the two sources of cosmic rays discoved from nearby regions of space) suggest the presence of high-energy particle acceleration in the vicinity of the earth.

    That’s it, sorry.

  13. Silver Thread says:

    I bet this coincides with the reduction in bow shock we are experiencing from the Sun. Just a hunch mind you.

  14. alandee says:

    Meh, global warming anyone ?

  15. marcellus says:

    I’ll take my Celestron G8 out tonight and look for it.

  16. ShadowDancer says:

    Barbara Says:
    November 24th, 2008 at 5:24 pm
    I have a (two?) question about the sentence:

    I suppose that “in the vicinity of the earth” means in the vicinity of our Solar System, is it?
    How far could possibly be these cosmic ray sources? Like a near star? Or a lot more far away?

    I hope there’s someone who could possibly answer to my questions. Thanks so much in advance, and please, be patient with my poor English.

    @Barbara

    According to the first story, the source is supposed to be within a kiloparsec – which is approximately 3260 lightyears. The nearest star to us is slightly more than 4 lightyears away. Until an exact location can be better pinpointed, a definitive source for the cosmic rays remains in the realm of speculation.

  17. kenn says:

    maybe its morse signals

  18. dollhopf says:

    What would be the consequences for life in the very vicinity of these sources? Would the life on Earth be extinct if our planet was located there?

  19. Jerry_in_China says:

    What about an unusually small black hole(s)? It could be a binaryeven closer than we think.

  20. Dark Gnat says:

    I agree with the black hole idea.

    If the black hole was small and inactive, how would we even know how to detect it?

  21. Eric Near Buffalo says:

    When I punched in the supposed coordinates of a “red dwarf” near or in the Solar System on wikisky, it put me somewhere in the Orion constellation. Any chance that the coordinates are true and there may be a connection?

  22. Astrofreak says:

    Wow. Ya all actually wrote a story without a whole lotta bullshit speculation! Turnin’ over a new leaf?

  23. Marco says:

    Jordan Goodman may be a very good scientist, but he doesn’t seem to know much about press releases. I love these two quotes:

    “These two results may be due to the same, or different, astrophysical phenomenon…” and
    “Whatever the source of the protons we observed with Milagro, their path to Earth is deflected by the magnetic field of the Milky Way so that we cannot directly tell exactly where they originate.” Not exactly statements full of precision.

    Perhaps a better way to put this would have been that we have found a source of cosmic rays hitting Earth. We are now trying to determine if this is related to the unknown source that was recently discovered. While the rays appear to originate from two points in the direction of the constellation Gemini, due to the Milky Way’s magnetic field we will have to conduct more analysis to determine the correct point source.

    As Dr. Goodman phrased it, it makes him sound bad to a layman. Remember, layman may not work in the business, but they due ultimately fund it.

  24. oz says:

    the area seems near the ecliptic

  25. Stan9FOS says:

    The source is obvious, and was pointed out years ago:
    “Attack ships on fire, off the shoulder of Orion…”
    Roy Batty, replicant.
    (And could the Gemini source = Tannhauser Gate?)
    ;-)=

  26. Dear Dr. Kaku

    Apropos an article ‘Looking for a higher theory of everything’ Interaction: Michio Kaku published in Times of India, New Delhi on seventh June 2008 at page number fourteen. I have written following two papers which may lead to the realisation for a higher theory of everything:

    (i) Gravitation Force is the Ultimate Creator,
    (1st Int. Conf. on Revival of Traditional Yoga, Lonavla Yoga Institute, Lonavla, January, 2006)
    (ii) In Scientific Terminology, Source of Gravitational Wave is God
    (2nd World Congress on Vedic Science, BHU, Varanasi, Feb 2007)
    I have presented these two papers at the two different International Conferences. I am now submitting some views for being considered for Unified Field Theory

    From Scriptures:
    The Current which manifested in the beginning of the creation is the Current of Sabda (Sound) and of Chaitanya (Consciousness). From whom that Current issued forth is known as Soami (Supreme Being). This Current, by turning back can merge again in the Holy Feet of Supreme Being. The entire creation manifested from this current and is sustained with its energy and when the Current of the Holy Feet is withdrawn, the creation ceases to exist.This Current of the Holy Feet is the Reservoir of all energy, tastes and pleasures, knowledge, skill, shapes, forces and light etc. etc. and of the entire creation, is also the Creator of all of them.

    From Science:
    Gravitation Force is the cause of manifestation of the creation (birth of planets, stars), its sustenance and when it is withdrawn towards centre or source the entire creation ceases to exist. Photons have originated from gravitons. In black holes photons merge into gravitons. In Black Holes, Gravitational Force is so high that it does not allow even light to escape. What does it mean then? It simply means that the gravitational force at black-holes attracts light towards it with much greater velocity than the speed of light. In fact, all forces including electromagnetic force, material force (strong and weak nuclear force) all merge into gravitational force in black-holes and becomes one force there and when the creational process starts again from a Black-Hole all the forces appear (manifest) again and descends downwards to create billions of stars, planets, satellite, asteroids and various life forms.

    Hence it can be assumed that the Current of Chaitanya (Consciousness) and Gravitational Wave are the two names of the same Supreme Essence (Seed) which has brought forth the entire creation.

    Anirudh Kumar Satsangi,

    All cosmological researches should be conducted keeping in view of the following philosophical facts:
    It has been stated in Bible (John I-1) “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,”
    The Radhasoami Religion also tells that, the ‘Word’ mentioned above is in fact Current of Sound or Current of Consciousness or Prime Current of Spirituality which was issued forth from its Source, or Creator or God. This Current has later on produced light and other forces. The scientists are discussing these days about dark energy which constitute about 96% of the entire universe which is not known to us. Only 4% part of the universe is known to us by all scientific means. In fact this 96% invisible portion of the universe is the vast expanse of spirituality which can be designated as field of gravitational waves in scientific terms. Visible portion of the universe (4%) consists of consciousness (gravitational force), mental force (electromagnetic waves) and material force (strong and weak nuclear force).
    Body = Nuclear Force (weak as well as strong)
    Mind = Electromagnetic Force.
    Consciousness = Gravitation Force.
    According to Radhasoami Religion the whole Universe can be sub-divided into three grand divisions viz.
    1. Region of Pure Spirituality
    2. Region of Subtle Maya
    3. Region of Gross Maya
    Nuclear forces dominate Region of Gross Maya (Gross Material Region), Electro-magnetic forces dominate Region of Subtle Maya (Subtle Material Region) and Gravitational Force dominates Pure Spiritual Region.
    This is the only Truth which can be verified scientifically and can be termed as ‘higher theory for everything’. This also supports the statement of Sir Sahabji Maharaj the goal of science – Truth; the goal of philosophy – Ultimate Reality; and the goal of religion – God are the three names of same supreme essence.
    1. Many things are common between Current of Consciousness and Gravitational Wave.
    1. Current of consciousness can not be seen by any means and gravitational wave can also not be seen.
    2. Current of consciousness is the weakest force on earth. Its strength goes on increasing on higher regions. Gravitational force is also very weak on earth and strong on Sun and even more stronger on black holes.
    3 Tendency of both current of consciousness and gravitational waves are towards their source or centre.
    4. Current of consciousness and gravitational force are both regarded as the creater of all the celestial and terrestrial bodies of the whole universe. They are also sustainer of these and when they turn back towards their source or centre the whole universe will collapse.
    Hence it can be assumed that the source of current of consciousness and gravitational wave is the same i.e. God or ultimate creator.
    This theory is based on scientific deduction. All other theories appear to be work of imaginative thinking and sometimes do not satisfy the criteria of scientific verification. In scientific terms it can be said that the ‘gravitons’ are the elementary
    particle which was issued forth in the beginning of the creation accompanying with sound ‘Radha’

    Prime Spiritual Currend = Gravitational Rays = Cosmic Rays
    Do you agree with this?

    Anirudh Kumar Satsangi
    B.Sc., M.A. (Psychology), B.Ed., Adv. Dip. in Mgt.
    P.A. To Director
    Dayalbagh Educational Institute
    (Deemed University)
    Dayalbagh, Agra-282005

  27. Damian says:

    Mysteries are wonderful, the unexplained always inspires such great imagination. Perhaps our imagination is the greatest Muse of all. Brahma would be proud.

    On the positive side of things the next three years will give a multitude of people something to believe in. I for one hope that the Death planet is currently being attacked by some X wing fighters. :)

    Such speculative faith never hurts much, except maybe if your being burnt alive at the stake for having an opposing opinion)

    On a more tangible side, I am wondering about the wording of the article / discovery. It suggests that the (our planet) is being bombarded, (as if it was on purpose or with intent)

    I’m inclined to believe the (intent) behind the wording is attention grabbing, but the reality is somewhat akin to saying that the light from say, Eta Carinae has been purposefully attacking us by shining in the night sky?

    Anyone care to follow up?

    Damian

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