Scientists Identify Super Cosmic Ray Accelerator in Cygnus Constellation, Changing Galactic Ray Origin Theories, China

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Updated: 10:59 AM, Tue February 27, 2024

Chinese scientists have made a groundbreaking discovery regarding the origin of ultra-high energy cosmic rays within our Milky Way galaxy. A super cosmic ray accelerator, the first of its kind, has been identified in the Cygnus constellation by researchers at an observatory in southwestern China. This discovery challenges previous theories that only rays with lower energy levels originated within our galaxy. The findings, detailed in a recent paper published in Science Bulletin, shed new light on the source and formation of cosmic rays in space.

The massive bubblelike structure observed by the scientists, approximately 10 million times larger than our solar system, is believed to be the key to understanding how ultra-high energy gamma rays are produced within the Milky Way. The structure, found in the star-forming region of Cygnus X, correlates with the presence of multiple cosmic rays exceeding 1 petaelectronvolt (PeV), with one reaching as high as 2.5 PeV. These rays are thought to have originated from a massive star cluster, Cygnus OB2, at the core of the bubble.

According to the researchers, the super cosmic ray accelerator within the star cluster is capable of injecting cosmic rays into interstellar space at energy levels between 10 to 25 PeV. The collision of these high-energy particles with interstellar gas results in the production of observed photons with energies of 1 PeV and above. The stars in Cygnus OB2 emit radiation intensities far exceeding that of the sun, creating high-speed winds that collide with interstellar matter, forming the particle accelerator responsible for cosmic ray production.

The team deciphered that every cosmic ray source in our galaxy likely possesses a similar bubble or halo structure for cosmic ray acceleration. Furthermore, the diffusion speed of cosmic rays was found to be much slower than previously assumed, enabling the observation of the bubble in Cygnus. As the Large High Altitude Air Shower Observatory (Lhaaso) continues its observations, more super cosmic ray accelerators are expected to be detected, potentially unraveling the century-long mystery of cosmic ray origins.

Astrophysicists and experts in the field have acknowledged the significance of this discovery, citing its potential to revolutionize current theories of cosmic ray transport and galactic phenomena. The newfound understanding of super cosmic ray accelerators within our galaxy opens doors to further exploration and insights into the cosmic realm, shaping the future of space research and scientific discovery.

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