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Mysterious high-energy particles could come from black hole jets

Three different cosmic oddities could all have the same source

3:48pm, January 22, 2018
supermassive black hole illustration

HIT THE GAS  Jets from supermassive black holes, like the one shown in this artist’s illustration, could be ultimately responsible for three different types of enigmatic high-energy particles.   

It’s three for the price of one. A trio of mysterious high-energy particles could all have the same source: active black holes embedded in galaxy clusters, researchers suggest January 22 in Nature Physics.

Scientists have been unable to figure out the origins of the three types of particles — gamma rays that give a background glow to the universe, cosmic neutrinos and ultrahigh energy cosmic rays. Each carries a huge amount of energy, from about a billion electron volts for a gamma ray to 100 billion billion electron volts for some cosmic rays.

Strangely, each particle type seems to contribute the same total amount of energy to the universe as the other two. That’s a clue that all three may be powered by the same engine, says physicist Kohta Murase of Penn State.

“We can explain the data of these three messengers with one single picture,” Murase says.

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