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  • Indrima Das

Gamma Rays with Incredible Amounts of Energy

Our universe has outdone itself again. Scientists have spotted twelve gamma ray hot spots in space suggesting that our galaxy harbours powerful particle accelerators. These heavily energized rays of light from space are a marvel of astrophysics as we have little to no clue as to what environments these rays are produced in. The unexplained wonders of astronomy have now been recognized as gamma rays which are at much higher energies than ever before.

The Large High Elevation Air Shower Observatory, LHAASO, spotted more than 530 gamma beams with energies above 0.1 quadrillion electron volts, analysts report online on the 17th May in 'Nature' magazine. The gamma beam with the highest energy distinguished was about 1.4 quadrillion electron volts. In the Huge Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, protons reach simple trillions of volts which pales in comparison to the energy of the newly discovered rays. Before this, the most vigorous gamma beam known was under a quadrillion electron volts.

For gamma rays to arrive at such energies, electromagnetic fields have to fire up charged particles, in particular protons or electrons, to great velocities. These particles can then be able to deliver highly energetic gamma rays, for instance, when protons associate with other matter in space. Researchers are not yet certain what conditions are suitable to deliver light with energies arriving at more than a quadrillion electron volts. With the help of new observations, they have been able to highlight two possibilities as to where these rays are formed. One of them is the Crab Nebula which is the tumultuous remains of an exploded star. Another potential source was the Cygnus Cocoon, a region where intense winds are being blasted out in the process of the formation of huge stars.

LHAASO, situated on Haizi Mountain in China's Sichuan province, is not completely operational yet. When it is completed later this year, it is expected to find even more gamma rays at greater energy than these.

The LHAASO observatory, in China



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