Milky Way’s Black Hole May Be Spewing Neutrinos

Photo Courtesy: NASA
Cassandra Vella / Correspondent

NASA’s X-ray Telescope may have stumbled upon neutrinos coming from the black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

Neutrinos are small, chargeless particles that linger from one end of the universe to the other with little to no interactions with protons and electrons. These neutrino particles can travel immense distances without being affected by magnetic fields or absorbed by varying matter.

The three NASA satellites that observe X-ray light in this case are the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Swift gamma-ray mission, and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR). These satellites are responsible for the first ever evidence of where neutrinos come from which may be a big step in the astrophysics field. Since the Earth is always being hit with neutrinos from the sun, scientists are searching for where neutrinos with high energy levels are coming from. It is very hard to create a detector for these particles’ origins since they can pass through material very easily. Since 2010, the South Pole’s IceCube Neutrino Observatory has detected 36 high-energy neutrinos. With the satellites’ data and the IceCube’s efforts, scientists are looking into whether violent events that had occurred in space may correlate with the arrival of these high-energy neutrinos on Earth. The highest energy neutrinos are thought to have been created from the powerful events in the Universe like galaxy mergers, the winds around dense rotating stars also called pulsars, and material falling onto super massive black holes.

Teams of researchers are still trying to figure out how the Milky Way’s black hole, Sagittarius A*, may be producing Neutrinos. One idea includes particles around the black hole becoming accelerated by shock waves, like sonic booms, which may be producing charged particles that are decaying into neutrinos. Another thought is based upon another riddle to the astrophysics field which involves the source of high-energy cosmic rays. Although the charged particles of cosmic rays are deflected by magnetic fields in the Milky Way, scientists cannot track their origins. The charge particles that are accelerated by shock waves near Sagittarius A* may be significant sources of very energetic cosmic rays that are still being studied.