Not Science Fiction: An Unknown Particle with Very High Energy Hit Earth
A cosmic ray detector comprising 507 ground-based scintillator stations, covering an extensive detection area of 700 square kilometers in Utah, USA. On May 27, 2023, scientists discovered a particle with a tremendous energy level of 244 EeV.
Astronomers discovered a cosmic particle with high energy (244 EeV) named ‘Amaterasu’.
A high-energy particle from space hit the Earth – it’s unclear where it came from or even exactly what it is. This might sound like something from science fiction, but it is a fact of scientific reality, as shown by the research of Japanese scientist Toshiro Fujiyai from Kyoto University.
Cosmic rays are energetically charged particles originating from within and outside our galaxy. Very high-energy cosmic rays are extremely rare. They can reach more than 10^18 electron volts, or one exa-electron volt (EeV), which is about a million times more than the most powerful accelerators ever built by humans have achieved.
Professor Fujiyai and an international team of scientists have been managing the telescope array experiment since 2008 in pursuit of such cosmic rays from space. This special cosmic ray detector includes 507 ground-based scintillator stations, covering an extensive detection area of 700 square kilometers in Utah, USA. On May 27, the scientists discovered a particle with an enormous energy level of 244 EeV.
“When I first discovered this ultra-high-energy cosmic ray, I thought there must be a mistake, because it showed an unprecedented level of energy over the past three decades,” shared Professor Fujiyai.
This energy level can be compared to the most energetic cosmic ray ever observed, called the ‘OMG Particle’, which had an estimated energy of 320 EeV when it was discovered in 1991.
Among the many possible names for the particle, Professor Fujiyai and his colleagues chose ‘Amaterasu’ (Amaterasu), after the sun goddess in Shinto belief who played an important role in the creation of Japan.
The Amaterasu particle is perhaps as mysterious as the Japanese goddess herself. Where did it come from? What exactly was it? These questions remain. It is hoped that the Amaterasu particle will pave the way to explaining the origin of cosmic rays.
“No promising astronomical object matching the direction from which the cosmic ray came was identified, raising possibilities of unknown astronomical phenomena and a new physical source beyond the standard model,” said Professor Fujiyai. “In the future, we are committed to continuing the telescope array experiment, starting with our ongoing upgraded experiment with four times the sensitivities, called TAx4, and the next-generation observatories, a more detailed investigation of the source of this very energetic particle.”
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