Neutrinos: How they might explain the ends of the universe

Nov 7, 2022, 8:23 AM
Neutrinos observatory is pictured...
IceCube telescope in South Pole. (Peter Bammes)
(Peter Bammes)

SALT LAKE CITY — One of the most well-studied galaxies and its neutrinos have made more history, and the University of Utah is a part of it. Whether you call it Messier 77, Squid Galaxy, or NGC 1068, you can observe it with large binoculars 47 million light-years away. 

For the first time ever, Messier 77 is emitting observable high-energy neutrino. Scientists, technicians and engineers at the University of Utah witness the discoveries firsthand.

What does that mean? Neutrino emission happens when stars merge in abundant quantiles. This merging is due to high temperatures. 

The detection of these emissions occurs at National Science Foundation which supports IceCube Neutrino Observatory. 

The observatory has a large-scale telescope that, according to a press release, “explores the farthest reaches of our universe using neutrinos.” 

Additionally, the main bulk of the research comes from observing the South Pole through the IceCube telescope. 

Through compiling this information, scientists are able to detect Messier 77’s energy source. Which is now known to be a blazer called TXS 0506+056.

TXS 0506+056 is located off the left shoulder of the Orion constellation and 4 billion light-years away.

Scientists are able to accumulate these neutrinos or star mergers by observing TXS 0506+056, as it sends information back to the telescope. 

“IceCube has accumulated some 80 neutrinos of teraelectronvolt energy from NGC 1068, which are not yet enough to answer all our questions, but they definitely are the next big step towards the realization of neutrino astronomy,” said Francis Halzen, a professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and principal investigator of IceCube. 

The University of Utah’s role

According to a press release, the University of Utah plays a large role in this research. The U of U joined the IceCube Collaboration as a full institutional member in 2020.

Specifically, Professor Carsten Rott has been with IceCube since the early construction days of the telescope. 

“After more than ten years of taking data, it is exciting to continue to see breakthroughs like this evidence for neutrino emission from NGC 1068, that bring us closer to understanding the origins of the energetic particles we observe in the universe,” Rott said in a press release. 

Additionally, neutrinos can escape in large numbers from extremely dense environments in the universe according to scientific research. 

This means they are incredibly important to answer questions about the activity of the “most extreme objects in the cosmos.”

Comparatively, The Milky Way’s radiation comes from stars. Messier 77’s comes from the mentioned objects falling into a black hole millions of times more massive than our Sun. 

“Answering these far-reaching questions about the universe that we live in is a primary focus of the U.S. National Science Foundation,” said Denise Caldwell, director of NSF’s Physics Division in a press release. 

IceCube has completely transformed the way we observe and think about the energetic universe,” said Rott in an earlier release.

“When we built the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, few of us imagined the tremendous impact our science program would have. Besides the breakthrough discoveries associated with the observations of high-energy neutrinos of astrophysical origin, we have produced a large number of very high-impact results in particle”

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Neutrinos: How they might explain the ends of the universe