Using an internationally organised astronomical dragnet, scientist have for the first time located a source of high-energy cosmic neutrinos, ghostly elementary particles that travel billions of light years through the universe, flying unaffected through stars, planets and entire galaxies. The joint observation campaign was triggered by a single neutrino that had been recorded by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole, on 22 September 2017. Telescopes on earth and in space were able to determine that the exotic particle had originated in a galaxy over three billion light years away, in the constellation of Orion, where a gigantic black hole serves as a natural particle accelerator. Scientists from the 18 different observatories involved are presenting their findings in the journal Science. Furthermore, a second analysis, also published in Science, shows that other neutrinos previously recorded by IceCube came from the same source.
The observation campaign, in which research scientists from Germany played a key role, is a decisive step towards solving a riddle that has been puzzling scientists for over 100 years, namely that of the precise origins of so-called cosmic rays, high-energy subatomic particles that are constantly bombarding Earth’s atmosphere. “This is a milestone for the budding field of neutrino astronomy.