Science News

Tracing back a ghostly particle to a shredded star, scientists have uncovered a gigantic cosmic particle accelerator. The subatomic particle, called a neutrino, was hurled towards Earth after the doomed star came too close to the supermassive black hole at the center of its home galaxy and was ripped apart by the black hole’s colossal gravity. It is the first particle that can be traced back to such a ‘tidal disruption event’ (TDE) and provides evidence that these little understood cosmic catastrophes can be powerful natural particle accelerators, as the team led by DESY scientist Robert Stein reports in the journal Nature Astronomy. The observations also demonstrate the power of exploring the cosmos via a combination of different ‘messengers’ such as photons (the particles of light) and neutrinos, also known as multi-messenger astronomy.
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