Space

Discovery of huge ‘barrier’ by astronomers that divides the Milky Way center from the cosmic ray sea

Discovery of huge 'barrier' by astronomers that divides the Milky Way center from the cosmic ray sea

According to a new study, the Milky Way’s center may be considerably stranger than astronomers assumed.

A team of experts from Nanjing’s Chinese Academy of Sciences analyzed a map of radioactive gamma-rays for the study. They identified the universe’s highest-energy type of light, which can occur when extremely high-speed particles collide. They’re called cosmic rays because they collide with ordinary stuff exploding in and around our galaxy’s core.

The effect is defined as an unseen “barrier” that wraps around the galactic center, according to the researchers. It keeps the density of cosmic rays there much lower than the rest of the galaxy’s baseline level.

What does the new study reveal?

In the constellation Sagittarius, around 26,000 light-years from Earth, lies the galaxy’s center. It’s a dense and dusty environment, with more than a million times the number of stars per light-year as the entire solar system, all encircled by a supermassive black hole with a mass of around 4 million times that of the sun.

The researchers matched the density of cosmic rays in this sea to the density of cosmic rays in the galactic center in their latest study. Cosmic rays can’t be seen directly, but they can be found in gamma-ray space maps, which show where cosmic rays have impacted other types of matter.

The scientists established that something in the galactic core is working as a huge particle accelerator, spewing cosmic rays out into the galaxy, using data from the Fermi Large Area Telescope.

The possibilities include:

  • Sagittarius A* could be the culprit, as black holes could hypothetically send specific particles into space while devouring everything else surrounding them.
  • Supernova leftovers from the past
  • Or even powerful stellar winds from the galactic center’s many stars crowded together.

Further Discoveries

However, the map also revealed the enigmatic “barrier,” a visible location at the perimeter of the galactic center where the density of cosmic rays reduces substantially. According to the researchers, the source of this phenomenon is difficult to determine, although it could entail a jumble of magnetic fields at our galaxy’s dense core.

The scientists proposed in their paper that massive clouds of dust and gas surrounding the galactic center could collapse on themselves, compressing the magnetic fields and producing a cosmic-ray-proof barrier. Perhaps stellar winds from the galactic center’s countless stars are pushing back against the cosmic ray sea, similar to how the solar wind does.

Further research is needed to figure out exact activities in the strange depths of our galaxy.

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