'What the heck is going on?': Scientists baffled by mysterious cosmic ray that came from beyond our galaxy

24 November 2023, 16:19

An artist's impression of the Amataresu particle.
An artist's impression of the Amataresu particle. Picture: Osaka Metropolitan University/Kyoto University/Ryuunosuke Takeshige/PA

By Ana Truesdale

A cosmic ray observed by scientists in Utah has been described as 'unprecedented' in modern times.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Scientists in Utah observed an "unprecedented" cosmic ray through a telescope system in Utah in May 2021.

It was named Amaterasu, after the sun goddess from Japanese mythology.

The study into the cosmic ray was released this week and it was one of the most powerful cosmic rays ever observed.

The scientists who observed Amaterasu say the cosmic ray could only have come from only the most powerful of celestial events, much bigger solar flares.

Professor Matthews said that in the case of Amaterasu, "you trace its trajectory to its source and there's nothing high energy enough to have produced it.

"That's the mystery of this – what the heck is going on?"

Scientists believe Amaterasu may have originated from an invisible corridor or "void... in the universe."

Cosmic rays are clusters of high-energy particles that move through space at almost the speed of light and are usually created by solar flares.

When cosmic rays hit the Earth’s atmosphere, they produce showers of secondary particles, some of which reach our planet’s surface.

The Telescope Array surface detector in Utah observes air showers induced by cosmic rays.
The Telescope Array surface detector in Utah observes air showers induced by cosmic rays. Picture: Alamy

Professor Toshihiro Fujii of Osaka Metropolitan University in Japan, was one of the scientists who observed the phenomenon captured by the Telescope Array experiment in Utah.

He said: "When I first discovered this ultra-high-energy cosmic ray, I thought there must have been a mistake, as it showed an energy level unprecedented in the last three decades.

"No promising astronomical object matching the direction from which the cosmic ray arrived has been identified, suggesting possibilities of unknown astronomical phenomena and novel physical origins beyond the Standard Model."

Amaterasu has an energy of 240 quintillion electronvolts. For comparison, the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s biggest and most powerful particle accelerator, runs at 13.6 trillion electronvolts

John Matthews, a research professor at the University of Utah's Department of Physics and Astronomy in the US, said: "Things that people think of as energetic, like supernova, are nowhere near energetic enough for this.

"You need huge amounts of energy, really high magnetic fields to confine the particle while it gets accelerated."

The cosmic ray appeared to come from the Local Void, which is an empty area of space which borders the Milky Way galaxy.

Read more: Shimmering galaxies revealed in new photos taken by European space telescope

Read more: SpaceX launches new rocket but explosions end second test flight

Professor at the University of Utah's Department of Physics and Astronomy John Belz said: "These events seem like they're coming from completely different places in the sky.

"It's not like there's one mysterious source.

"It could be defects in the structure of spacetime, colliding cosmic strings.

"I mean, I'm just spit-balling crazy ideas that people are coming up with because there's not a conventional explanation."

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

The Prince Albert memorial has been 'considered offensive'

Prince Albert Memorial branded 'offensive' as it reflects 'Victorian view of the world'

Lord Falconer has said 'the time has come' for assisted dying reform

'The time has come': Lord Falconer calls for 'significant' assisted dying reform ahead of his new bill being introduced

An independent review recommended teachers and nurses get 5.5% pay rises

'There's also a cost to no deal': Treasury minister hints at above-inflation pay rise for public sector workers

Yvette Cooper vows to crackdown on illegal immigration

Beauty salons and car washes to be targeted in illegal immigration blitz as Home Secretary redeploys Rwanda scheme staff

Sarah Justine Packwood, 54, and her husband, Brett Clibbery, 70.

Mystery as Brit woman and husband attempting to cross Atlantic found dead in lifeboat one month after going missing

Exclusive
Five days of big names: LBC announces guest host week

Five days of big names: LBC announces guest host week

Rachel Reeves

Rachel Reeves vows 'big bang' for pensions as government launches review in bid to boost investment and savings

Amanda Abbington has claimed Giovanni Pernice was 'cruel and abusive'.

Strictly's Amanda Abbington breaks silence over 'cruel' Giovanni Pernice - as first female pro under fire

Donald Trump spoke at a rally for the first time since he was shot in the ear

Donald Trump says he ‘took a bullet for democracy’ at first rally since assassination attempt

A burnt out car in the Leeds suburb of Harehills, after vehicles were set on fire and a police car was overturned as residents were warned to stay home following an outbreak of disorder on Thursday evening. Picture date: Friday July 19, 2024.

Man charged with arson after bus set on fire in Leeds riots over children allegedly removed from local family

Craig Revel Horwood has said the recent allegations have come as a 'shock' to him

Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood breaks silence after 'shock' of dancing show's abuse allegations

A series of Israeli strikes have been launched against the Houthi-controlled port city of Hodeidah in Yemen

Israel launches series of air strikes on Houthi-controlled city in Yemen day after group claim deadly attack on Tel Aviv

Jay Slater and his mum, Debbie Duncan

Jay Slater's GoFundMe page hits £70k after teen's mum appeals for funeral donations

Holidaymakers have been left stranded during global IT outage

'We're not being given any information': Furious holidaymaker stranded in Rhodes tells of travel hell after IT outage

A burnt out car in the Leeds suburb of Harehills, after vehicles were set on fire and a police car was overturned as residents were warned to stay home following an outbreak of disorder on Thursday evening. Picture date: Friday July 19, 2024.

Further unrest in Leeds as hundreds take to streets to 'demand return of children' allegedly removed from local family

NHS England has warned of "continued disruption" to GP services into next week.

NHS warns of GP disruption after global IT outage as trains, planes and roads remain in chaos leaving Brits stranded