Scientists are grappling with a newfound cosmic conundrum as a telescope in Utah has recently detected the most potent cosmic ray witnessed in over three decades, as per the latest research unveiled on Thursday in the journal Science.
This enigmatic ultra-high-energy particle, an exceedingly rare phenomenon, is thought to have journeyed to Earth from beyond the Milky Way galaxy.
However, the precise origin of this high-powered cosmic traveler remains shrouded in mystery. Dubbed the Amaterasu particle, after the sun goddess in Japanese mythology, this cosmic ray has left experts speculating whether it might be a product of yet undiscovered physics.
Clancy James, an astronomer at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, expressed awe in an article published in the British scientific journal Nature, remarking that scientists are pondering “what could produce such high energy.”
Cosmic rays, invisible to the naked eye, are charged particles, often protons, hurtling through space from distant galaxies and extragalactic sources at nearly the speed of light.
Cosmic rays exceeding 100 exa-electron volts (EeV) in energy are seldom detected. NASA notes that these cosmic rays, constantly entering Earth’s atmosphere, provide a unique direct sampling of matter from outside the solar system.
The origins of these high-energy cosmic rays have remained elusive despite years of investigation.
Attempts to trace the trajectory of the Oh-My-God particle and this recent discovery have led scientists to sources lacking the requisite energy to generate them, leaving a perplexing void in understanding, according to John Matthews, co-spokesperson of the Telescope Array at the University of Utah.
John Belz, a professor at the University of Utah and co-author of the study, highlighted the apparent diversity in the origins of these events, suggesting that the most significant discoveries seem to come from voids or empty spaces.
He emphasized, “It’s not like there’s one mysterious source,” contemplating unconventional possibilities such as defects in spacetime structure or colliding cosmic strings.
Fujii and his team are currently upgrading the Telescope Array, aiming to enhance sensitivity fourfold.
This enhancement will enable researchers to capture more of these rare ultra-high-energy cosmic rays and, in turn, refine their ability to trace the origins of these cosmic mysteries.