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Mysterious particles spewing from Antarctica defy physics

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Our best model of particle physics is bursting at the seams as it struggles to contain all the weirdness in the universe. Now, it seems more likely than ever that it might pop, thanks to a series of strange events in Antarctica. .

The death of this reigning physics paradigm, the Standard Model, has been predicted for decades. There are hints of its problems in the physics we already have. Strange results from laboratory experiments suggest flickers of ghostly new species of neutrinos beyond the three described in the Standard Model. And the universe seems full of dark matter that no particle in the Standard Model can explain.

But recent tantalizing evidence might one day tie those vague strands of data together: Three times since 2016, ultra-high-energy particles have blasted up through the ice of Antarctica, setting off detectors in the Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA) experiment, a machine dangling from a NASA balloon far above the frozen surface.

As Live Science reported in 2018, those events — along with several additional particles detected later at the buried Antarctic neutrino observatory IceCube — don’t match the expected behavior of any Standard Model particles. The particles look like ultra high-energy neutrinos. But ultra high-energy neutrinos shouldn’t be able to pass through the Earth. That suggests that some other kind of particle — one that’s never been seen before — is flinging itself into the cold southern sky.

Now, in a new paper, a team of physicists working on IceCube have cast heavy doubt on one of the last remaining Standard Model explanations for these particles: cosmic accelerators, giant neutrino guns hiding in space that would periodically fire intense neutrino bullets at Earth. A collection of hyperactive neutrino guns somewhere in our northern sky could have blasted enough neutrinos into Earth that we’d detect particles shooting out of the southern tip of our planet. But the IceCube researchers didn’t find any evidence of that collection out there, which suggests new physics must be needed to explain the mysterious particles.

To understand why, it’s important to know why these mystery particles are so unsettling for the Standard Model.

Neutrinos are the faintest particles we know about; they’re difficult to detect and nearly massless. They pass through our planet all the time — mostly coming from the sun and rarely, if ever, colliding with the protons, neutrons and electrons that make up our bodies and the dirt beneath our feet.

But ultra-high-energy neutrinos from deep space are different from their low-energy cousins. Much rarer than low-energy neutrinos, they have wider “cross sections,” meaning they’re more likely to collide with other particles as they pass through them. The odds of an ultra-high-energy neutrino making it all the way through Earth intact are so low that you’d never expect to detect it happening. That’s why the ANITA detections were so surprising: It was as if the instrument had won the lottery twice, and then IceCube had won it a couple more times as soon as it started buying tickets.

And physicists know how many lottery tickets they had to work with. Many ultra-high-energy cosmic neutrinos come from the interactions of cosmic rays with the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the faint afterglow of the Big Bang. Every once in a while, those cosmic rays interact with the CMB in just the right way to fire high-energy particles at Earth. This is called the “flux,” and it’s the same all over the sky. Both ANITA and IceCube have already measured what the cosmic neutrino flux looks like to each of their sensors, and it just doesn’t produce enough high-energy neutrinos that you’d expect to detect a neutrino flying out of Earth at either detector even once.

“If the events detected by ANITA belong to this diffuse neutrino component, ANITA should have measured many other events at other elevation angles,” said Anastasia Barbano, a University of Geneva physicist who works on IceCube.

But in theory, there could have been  ultra-high-energy neutrino sources beyond the sky-wide flux, Barbano told Live Science: those neutrino guns, or cosmic accelerators.

“If it is not a matter of neutrinos produced by the interaction of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays with the CMB, then the observed events can be either neutrinos produced by individual cosmic accelerators in a given time interval” or some unknown Earthly source, Barbano said.

Blazars, active galactic nuclei, gamma-ray bursts, starburst galaxies, galaxy mergers, and magnetized and fast-spinning neutron stars are all good candidates for those sorts of accelerators, she said. And we know that cosmic neutrino accelerators do exist in space;  in 2018, IceCube tracked a high-energy neutrino back to a blazar, an intense jet of particles coming from an active black hole at the center of a distant galaxy.

ANITA picks up only the most extreme high-energy neutrinos, Barbano said, and if the upward-flying particles were cosmic-accelerator-boosted neutrinos from the Standard Model — most likely tau neutrinos — then the beam should have come with a shower of lower-energy particles that would have tripped IceCube’s lower-energy detectors.

“We looked for events in seven years of IceCube data,” Barbano said — events that matched the angle and length of the ANITA detections, which you’d expect to find if there were a significant battery of cosmic neutrino guns out there firing at Earth to produce these up-going particles. But none turned up.

Their results don’t completely eliminate the possibility of an accelerator source out there. But they do “severely constrain” the range of possibilities, eliminating all of the most plausible scenarios involving cosmic accelerators and many less-plausible ones.

“The message we want to convey to the public is that a Standard Model astrophysical explanation does not work no matter how you slice it,” Barbano said.

Researchers don’t know what’s next. Neither ANITA nor IceCube is an ideal detector for the needed follow-up searches, Barbano said, leaving the researchers with very little data on which to base their assumptions about these mysterious particles. It’s a bit like trying to figure out the picture on a giant jigsaw puzzle from just a handful of pieces.

Right now, many possibilities seem to fit the limited data, including a fourth species of “sterile” neutrino outside the Standard Model and a range of theorized types of dark matter. Any of these explanations would be revolutionary.hjh But none is strongly favored yet.

“We have to wait for the next generation of neutrino detectors,” Barbano said.

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Remains of small armor-plated dinosaur found in Argentina – Mint Lounge

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Buenos Aires, Reuters: Paleontologists on Thursday heralded the discovery of a previously unknown small armored dinosaur in southern Argentina, a creature that likely walked upright on its back legs roaming a then-steamy landscape about 100 million years ago.

The Cretaceous Period dinosaur, named Jakapil kaniukura, would have been well-protected with rows of bony disk-shaped armor along its neck and back and down to its tail, they said. It measured about 5 feet (1.5 meters) long and weighed only 9 to 15 pounds (4-7 kg), similar to an average house cat.

Also read: New dinosaur found in Mexico was ‘very communicative’

Its fossilized remains were dug up over the past decade near a dam in Patagonia in Rio Negro province’s La Buitrera paleontological zone. The scientists described Jakapil in a study published in the journal Scientific Reports (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-022-15535-6.pdf.)

The scientists said Jakapil marks a first-of-its-kind discovery of an armored dinosaur from the Cretaceous in South America. It is part of the thyreophoran dinosaur group that includes the likes of Stegosaurus, known for its bony back plates and spiky tail, and tank-like Ankylosaurus, covered in armor and wielding a club-like tail.

Also read: Fish once labeled a living fossil surprises scientists again

Lead paleontologist Sebastian Apesteguia and his colleagues found a partial skeleton of Jakapil along with 15 tooth fragments featuring a leaf-like shape, similar to iguana teeth.

Jakapil resembles a primitive form of thyreophoran that lived much earlier, making it a surprise that it dated from the Cretaceous. Apesteguia said never before has such a thyreophoran been dug up anywhere in the southern hemisphere. 

(Reporting by Miguel Lo Bianco; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Will Dunham for Reuters)

Also read: ‘Death shadow’ dinosaur is largest megaraptor ever unearthed

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Perseid meteor shower of 2022 thrills stargazers despite bright moon (photos) – Space.com

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The Perseid meteor shower of the 2022 reached its peak this weekend and while the bright full moon may have washed out the best of the “shooting stars” display this year, that doesn’t mean skywatchers were left completely in the dark.

Stargazers around the world captured some dazzling views of the Perseid meteor shower as it peaked overnight Friday and Saturday (Aug. 12-13) and they shared the photos to prove it. Some observers took to Twitter to share their meteor views while other astrophotographers snapped truly stunning photos for Getty Images. 

“Perseid fireball I saw last night from Oxfordshire,”  skywatcher Mary McIntyre of Oxfordhire in the United Kingdom wrote (opens in new tab) on Twitter, adding that she captured the Perseid photos with a meteor camera. “The ionization trail was awesome.”

Related: Perseid meteor shower generates early “shooting stars” (video)

The Perseid meteor shower is typically one of the best meteor displays of the year, but its peak in 2022 came just one day after the Sturgeon supermoon (August’s full moon) on Aug. 11. Since dark skies are vital for meteor watching, even bright moonlight can dim a stargazers prospects. 

Photographer Wu Zhengjie for the photo service VCG and Getty Images still managed to capture stunning views of the Perseids from the Eboliang Yardang landform in Haixi Mongolian and Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province of China. The images show brilliant Perseid meteors over a striking landscape. 

Another photographer, Veysel Altun of the Anadalou Agency and Getty Images, managed to capture a Perseid meteor streak over a campsite in Samsun, Turkey. 

A Perseid meteor streaks across the night sky over Atakum district of Samsun, Turkey on Aug. 13, 2022.  (Image credit: Veysel Altun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Photographer Ercin Ertuk, also of the Anadalou Agency and Getty Images, snapped a photo of a Perseid as it streaked across the sky over trees in Ankara, Turkey.

A view of the Perseid meteor shower over Ankara, Turkey on August 13, 2022. (Image credit: Ercin Erturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Still more stargazers managed to catch views of the Perseids with either their own cameras or meteor cameras that constantly watch the sky to record fireballs. Here’s a look at some of our favorites spotted on Twitter.

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The Perseid meteor shower occurs each year in mid-August when the Earth passes through the dusty trail of the Comet Swift-Tuttle. When those comet bits slam into Earth’s atmosphere, they can spawn bright trails as the streak across the sky. They appear to radiate out from the constellation Perseus, hence their name. 

The next major meteor shower of 2022 will be the Orionid meteor shower in October. That shower will peak on Oct. 20 and 21, but its activity period runs from Sept. 26 to Nov. 22. It is caused by the remnants of Halley’s Comet as the Earth passes through that trail. 

Check out our guide for the best meteor showers of the year to prepare for your next stargazing experience.

Editor’s note: If you snap an amazing photo of a Perseid meteor or any other night-sky sight and you’d like to share it with Space.com for a story or image gallery, send images, comments and location information to spacephotos@space.com.

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com (opens in new tab) or follow him @tariqjmalik (opens in new tab). Follow us @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab)Facebook (opens in new tab) and Instagram (opens in new tab).

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B.C. poet illuminates pages of popular scientific magazine with verses about the nature of light – CBC.ca

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On clear summer nights, poet Donna Kane sleeps on the front deck of her farmhouse in Rolla, B.C., in an old-fashioned bed under a blue quilt printed with crescent moons.

The writer draws inspiration from looking at the sky in this northern part of the province, more than 750 kilometres distant from Vancouver.

“I feel connected. I feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself, and I feel comforted by that. You’re looking at the origins of light when you’re lying there, looking up at the stars,” Kane said.

Kane’s musings about star light in the night sky inspired her to write a poem that blends scientific principles and the human experience of light’s reflection — a poem that now appears in a respected U.S. science magazine.

The poem, On Visible Light, was published in the July edition of Scientific American magazine, alongside more traditional scholarly research on the thermodynamic limit, momentum computing and interstellar space.

For Kane, the inclusion of her poem is proof that literature and science are more closely connected than many people believe.

“I’ve always thought science and art are very, very similar, trying to discover the mysteries of the world and the universe. They both have that urge,” Kane told CBC News. 

“Poetry explores. Ideas can emerge from really good poems that maybe scientists hadn’t really thought of in that same way.” 

‘Science and art are very, very similar because both disciplines are trying to explore the mysteries of the world and the universe,’ poet Donna Kane said. (Submitted/Donna Kane)

Kane’s poem is a villanelle, a structured type of poem with refrains and a strict rhyming pattern, a form that dates back hundreds of years. She weaves together science and imagery with lines like “Just a slice of electromagnetic/ wavelength and sight is ours, a blindness gone/ at the end of travelling through our nights.”

Its appearance in the pages of Scientific American, which has more than eight million online readers worldwide each month, has brought Kane stratospheric exposure.

“I’m pretty sure I’m never going to get a bigger audience than that,” said Kane. “Usually the reach of poetry is very small.”

The cover of 'Scientific American', whose lead story is 'Voyagers' Final Frontier'. It features an image of a satellite.
Kane’s poem features in the July issue of Scientific American. The magazine has an online readership of around eight million each month. (Submitted/Scientific American)

The editor of Scientific American’s poetry column, Dava Sobel, told CBC News that Kane’s poem is “gorgeous.” 

“It’s emotionally evocative and yet scientifically informative. And it adheres to a very strict poetic form. So it’s a difficult thing to achieve. But she’s really done it,” said Sobel, a former science writer for the New York Times who was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Sobel, who had astronaut Neil Armstrong write the forward to one of her books and also has an asteroid named after her, believes that poetry can illuminate science. 

“Creativity flows smoothly between those two,” she said.

Dava Sobel poses for the camera in front of a sundial. She has white hair, cut short, and is wearing red-rimmed glasses.
Dava Sobel, poetry editor of Scientific American, has previously published poetry written by Nobel Prize winners in chemistry and physics. (Submitted/Glen Allsop)

Sobel said Scientific American published poetry in its very first issue in 1845 but only featured rarely since, until she launched a monthly science poetry column in the magazine in 2020.

Since then, in addition to Kane’s villanelle, she’s included poems written by Nobel Prize winners in chemistry and physics.

“Poetry should not be off limits to anybody, nor should science,” she said.

Even though it’s an imaginative work, Kane’s poem still had to meet the bar for accuracy and was rigorously fact checked by Scientific American before it was published.

“They’re pretty serious that … what you’ve written is accurate. You can do playful things, but the poem has to stand up to the actual science,” said Kane.

B.C. poet Donna Kane's face is shown reflected in the Pioneer 10 space craft during a visit to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.
Donna Kane’s face is reflected in a prototype of the Pioneer 10 space craft during a visit to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. The B.C. poet is drawn to writing about science and space. (Submitted/Donna Kane)

The poet said she’s always loved science and has written other works about space.

Her 2020 book, Orrery: Poems, featured a number of pieces about Pioneer 10, a space probe launched to study Jupiter’s moons. It was a finalist for a Governor General’s Award for English-language poetry. 

One of her space-themed poems will be included in a forthcoming anthology published by Cambridge University Press.

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