College News

UA Professors Help in Discovery of Potential Cosmic Ray Source

an artistic rendering of the Earth and a nearby galaxy
In this artistic rendering, a powerful blazar is shown as the origin of a neutrino detected by IceCube. The Fermi observatory in space and MAGIC telescopes on Earth detected high-energy gamma rays from the same source.

Three professors at The University of Alabama are part of an international team of scientists who found evidence of the source of tiny cosmic particles, known as neutrinos, a discovery that opens the door to using these particles to observe the universe.

“We’re beginning to do astronomy using means other than light, combining electromagnetic (light) observations with other measurements in what we now call multimessenger astronomy,” said Dr. Marcos Santander, UA assistant professor of physics and astronomy.

“This is the first evidence that we have of an active galaxy emitting neutrinos, which means we may soon start observing the universe using neutrinos to learn more about these objects in ways that would be impossible with light alone.”

Two papers published this week in the journal Science provide, for the first time, evidence for a known blazar, a giant elliptical galaxy with a massive, rapidly spinning black hole at its core, as a source of high-energy neutrinos.

This is based on the observation of neutrinos from the direction of the blazar by the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station and observations from telescopes around the globe and in Earth’s orbit.

The findings were announced today in Washington D.C. at the National Science Foundation, which supports the IceCube observatory.

Along with Santander, UA co-authors on the paper in Science are Drs. Dawn Williams, UA associate professor of physics and astronomy, and William C. Keel, UA professor of physics and astronomy.

Learn more about the discovery by reading the full article on the UA News site.