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Physicists have detected the highest-energy light ever recorded, coming from the Crab Nebula, the remains of a supernova, around 6,500 light years from the Earth.
Researchers in Tibet used enormous detectors to pick out the particle showers created by these gamma rays as they hit particles in the Earth's atmosphere.
Energies - Electron - Volts - Photons - Times
With energies of 100–450 trillion electron volts, the photons are around 69 times more energetic than the highest-powered particles in the Large Hadron Collider.
The high-energy gamma ray photons from the Crab Nebula were detected using the Tibet AS-gamma experiment, a so-called air shower observation array based in Yangbajain, in western China.
Experiment - Particle - Detectors - Feet - Metres
The experiment uses nearly 600 particle detectors, distributed over around 700,000 square feet (65,000 square metres) to detect the particle showers created when the high-energy photons hit Earth's atmosphere.
Each of the photons they detected had energies in excess of 100 trillion electron volts, the previously-detected record, with some as high as 4.5 times that.
Comparison - Photons - Energies - Electron - Volts
For comparison, visible light photons have energies of around a few electron volts, while the Large Hadron Collider — the most powerful particle accelerator built by man — can only reach energies of around 6.5 trillion electron volts.
Located around 6,500 light years away, the Crab Nebula was formed after a star exploded in a supernova that was spotted by Chinese astronomers in 1054.
Explosion - Conditions - Photons
This explosion created the conditions that can generate extremely high-energy photons.
First, charged particles like electrons were driven up to high energies by the shock-wave and the magnetic forces generated by the supernova explosion.
Electrons - Crab - Nebula - Collide - Photons
When these high-energy electrons in the Crab Nebula collide with low-energy photons, they transfer their energy, making the photons high-energy instead.
These photons travel off through space and some may even arrive at the Earth.
Photons - Interacts - Particles - Earth - Atmosphere
When one of these high-energy photons interacts with particles in the Earth's atmosphere, they create...
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