Cosmic rays are atomic fragments that carry large amounts of energy, and they often affect satellites as they enter our atmosphere. For more than a century, scientists have been elusive about the origins of this strange phenomenon. Now, researchers claim to have found clues in a new study that could reveal the factories behind these cosmic rays.

In a new study, published in science, the researchers discovered a branch of cosmic rays called neutrinos or ghost particles. These gatherings are thought to be so evasive that they interact with anything, but as they travel, they don’t make contact with atoms.

Scientists believe that astrophysical neutrinos and cosmic rays are linked, so locating the origin of neutrinos will help understand where cosmic rays come from. Neutrinos are like small particle messengers, spawning a new field of astronomy called multi-messenger astronomy.

For the study, the researchers scanned the largest available neutrino dataset collected from the IceCube Neutrino Observatory’s science base in Antarctica. The observatory discovered a neutrino in 2017 and later tracked a blazar called TXS 0506+056.

Confused about how neutrinos were created, researchers cross-checked IceCube’s with the PeVatron Trailblazers catalog. Through this study, the authors were able to identify the link between neutrinos and blazars. “Back then (2017) we had hints, and now we have evidence,” said Marco Ajello, associate professor of physics and astronomy at Clemson University and an author of the study.

Explaining the finding, co-author Sara Buson from Julius-Maximilians-Universität in Germany said: “The results provide for the first time indisputable observational evidence that subsamples of PeVatron blazars are extragalactic neutrino sources and therefore are cosmic ray accelerator.”

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Now, the researchers hope, while the were revealed by scanning only the most promising IceCube neutrino dataset, digging deeper will provide more discoveries in the future.

By Rebecca French

Rebecca French writes books about Technology and smartwatches. Her books have received starred reviews in Technology Shout, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist. She is a New York Times and a USA Today Bestseller...