Updated 09:43 PM EDT, Wed, Apr 21, 2021

Deep Space Neutrinos Recorded by South Pole IceCube Observatory

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They're small, massless, and travel at the speed of light, striking our planet's surface with the power of a professional baseball pitcher's fastball, yet these deep space mysterious neutrinos have never been empirically recorded, until now.

"The era of neutrino astronomy has begun," said professor Gregory Sullivan from the University of Maryland.

Scientists from the IceCube Neutrino Observatory in the South Pole announced Wednesday that they had observed and recorded 28 distinct high-energy particle events. The findings, published in the journal Science Nov. 22, "constitute the first solid evidence for astrophysical neutrinos from cosmic sources," according to the University of Maryland.

"The sources of neutrinos, and the question of what could accelerate these particles, has been a mystery for more than 100 years. Now we have an instrument that can detect astrophysical neutrinos. It's working beautifully, and we expect it to run for another 20 years," said Sullivan.

Up until now, neutrinos have remained a mystery to scientists. The electrically neutral particles do not interact with forces the same way as charged electrons and protons, nor do they seem to be significant on a common sense astrophysical level, but their very existence brings into question what their purpose in our universe is.

Despite around a century of research into the particles, astronomers have not been able to record any cosmic occurrences of neutrinos from outside our solar system until the IceCube results. Theorized sources of neutrinos include gamma ray bursts, active galactic nuclei and black holes.

The IceCube Neutrino Observatory is the result of more than 50 years of collaborative research into how best to record data concerning neutrinos. IceCube's instruments, buried in one cubic kilometer of ice, detect the rate of neutrinos (otherwise known as the flux) and attempt to identify their sources.

"IceCube is a wonderful and unique astrophysical telescope — it is deployed deep in the Antarctic ice but looks over the entire universe, detecting neutrinos coming through the Earth from the northern skies, as well as from around the southern skies," said Vladimir Papitashvili of the National Science Foundation Division of Polar Programs.

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