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The VERITAS array has confirmed the detection of high-energy gamma rays from the vicinity of a supermassive black hole located in a distant galaxy, TXS 0506+056. While these detections are relatively common for VERITAS, this blackhole is potentially the first known astrophysical source of high-energy cosmic neutrinos, a type of ghostly subatomic particle that can be made at astrophysical sources of ultra-high energy cosmic rays.
The University of Utah is one of the founding collaborating institutions of the VERITAS observatory. Co-author Dave Kieda, professor of physics and astronomy and the dean of the U's graduate school, led the design, construction and upgrade of VERITAS that gave the instrument enhanced sensitivity to the lower-energy gamma rays critical to the discovery. Anushka Udara Abeysekara, research assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the U, is also a coauthor on the paper.
Time - Gamma-rays - Neutrinos - Source - Evidence
"This is the first time we've seen high-energy gamma-rays and neutrinos being generated by a common astrophysical source. This is evidence that nearby and faraway galaxies with supermassive blackholes at their centers are actively creating high-energy cosmic rays," said Kieda. "It's one of the pieces of the puzzle needed to solve the mystery of where these cosmic rays come from."
The University of Utah also operates the Telescope Array cosmic ray observatory based in Delta, Utah. In 2015, the University of Utah Telescope Array Group identified a potential hotspot of ultra-high energy cosmic rays coming from a broad region of the sky containing numerous potential extragalactic cosmic-ray sources. Because our Galaxy's magnetic field bends the trajectory of incoming cosmic particles, the Telescope Array was unable to pinpoint any individual galaxy as the origin of the high energy cosmic rays. The VERITAS gamma-ray discovery, in combination with the ICECUBE neutrino detection, provides a way to directly identify a single galaxy as a source of high...
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