The revelation that “ghost particles” are being emitted from within our Milky Way galaxy is interesting and may open up new avenues for investigation. According to space.com, high-energy particles striking atoms in nuclear reactors cause radioactive decay, which results in the creation of neutrinos. Due to their minimal interaction with the rest of the physical universe, these particles are extremely difficult to detect, hence the name “ghost particles.” The researchers employed detectors at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, according to the BBC.
According to Prof. Subir Sarkar from the University of Oxford, this is the first time we are witnessing our Galaxy through the use of particles as opposed to light photons. This gives a perspective of the “high energy processes that shape our galaxy,” he said.
“The neutrino is a ghostly particle that is essentially massless. They might pass through the Galaxy without interacting with anything because they are practically moving at the speed of light. That’s why you need a big detector to see them,” he continued.
The observatory is contained beneath a gigaton of ice, according to space.com. More than 5,000 light sensors are housed in 0.24 cubic miles (1 cuib km) of Antarctic ice.
According to the site, these devices keep an eye out for the distinctive light flashes that appear when neutrinos do occasionally collide with atoms.
The researchers focussed on the plane of the Milky Way, the dense region of the galaxy that is spread around its equator. They studied a decade worth of IceCube data, analysing 60,000 neutrinos.
Scientists have long assumed that neutrinos originate in the Milky Way, particularly when cosmic rays collide with dust and gas. But this is the first time they’ve discovered it.