Cosmic ‘superbubbles’ that act like particle accelerators 100 times more powerful than the Large Hadron Collider are discovered in a galaxy 67 million light years from Earth
- Two ‘superbubbles’ have been observed by NASA in the middle of the galaxy
- The have been created by a ‘supermassive black hole’ in the galaxy’s centre
- And act like powerful ‘cosmic particle accelerators’ emitting X-ray energy
- They appear as two bright masses opposite sides of the black hole
Two ‘superbubbles’ have been observed in a far-away galaxy by NASA’s powerful X-ray detectors.
They appear as two bright masses that stretch out on opposite sides of a ‘supermassive black hole’ in the centre of the galaxy.
The bubbles are thought to be generated by matter falling into the black hole and act like powerful ‘cosmic particle accelerators’.
NASA says they are 100 times more powerful than the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva.
The superbubbles, shown in purple, emit so much energy and are so hot they emit X-rays.
The ‘extremely energetic cosmic rays’ that are generated in their formation have been detected and captured by a combination of radio, X-ray, and optical imaging from NASA.
The X-rays were picked up by NASA’s Chandra X-ray observatory, and together with optical data from the NASA’s Hubble Telescope, the space agency was able to create both wide field and close-up images of the phenomena.
According to NASA, the bubbles, which are shown in purple in images, are located in the spiral galaxy known as NGC 3079 which is 50 million light-years away from Earth.
The bigger of the two bubbles spans 4,900 light years in diameter and the smaller is 3,600 light years across.
Two ‘superbubbles’ have been observed in far-away galaxy by NASA’s powerful X-ray detectors. They appear as two bright masses that stretch out on opposite sides of a ‘supermassive black hole’ in the centre of a far-away galaxy
NASA says that Chandra X-ray detector show a cosmic particle accelerator is producing ultra-energetic particles in the rims of the superbubbles. Since the bubbles come from the centre of the galaxy, they may be created by the black hole interacting with surrounding gas
‘Alternatively, the superbubbles might have been created primarily by the energetic winds from many young and hot stars near that galaxy’s centre’, says NASA
WHAT IS THE CHANDRA X-RAY OBSERVATORY?
NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory is a telescope specially designed to detect X-ray emission from very hot regions of the Universe such as exploded stars, clusters of galaxies, and matter around black holes.
Because X-rays are absorbed by Earth’s atmosphere, Chandra must orbit above it, up to an altitude of 86,500 miles (139,000 km) in space.
It launched on on July 23, 1999 and is sensitive to X-ray sources 100 times fainter than any previous X-ray telescope, enabled by the high angular resolution of its mirrors.
There are no concrete plans from Nasa to replace Chandra and further study the X-ray wavelength of light.
The Chandra X-ray telescope is now in its 20th year of operation and has surpassed its projected operational lifespan by nearly 15 years.
Chandra automatically went into so-called safe mode in October because of a gyroscope problem.
NASA said: ‘The Chandra observations show that a cosmic particle accelerator in NGC 3079 is producing ultra-energetic particles in the rims of the superbubbles.
‘Since the bubbles straddle the centre of NGC 3079, one leading hypothesis is that they were somehow created by the interaction of the central with surrounding gas.
‘Alternatively, the superbubbles might have been created primarily by the energetic winds from many young and hot stars near that galaxy’s centre.
‘The only similar known phenomenon is the gamma-ray emitting Fermi bubbles emanating from the centre of our Milky Way Galaxy, discovered 10 years ago in images taken by NASA’s Fermi satellite.’
NASA added that it is continuing to look for similar high-energy superbubbles in other galaxies.
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. Inside the 27-km LHC ring, bunches of protons travel at almost the speed of light and collide at four interaction points
WHAT IS THE LARGE HADRON COLLIDER?
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator.
It is located in a 27-kilometer (16.8-mile) tunnel beneath the Swiss-French border.
The LHC started colliding particles in 2010. Inside the 27-km LHC ring, bunches of protons travel at almost the speed of light and collide at four interaction points.
Inside the accelerator, two high-energy particle beams travel at close to the speed of light before they are made to collide. The beams travel in opposite directions in separate beam pipes.
They are guided around the accelerator ring by a strong magnetic field maintained by superconducting electromagnets.
The LHC (pictured) was restarted on April 5th 2015, having been turned off for two years during a major renovation project that cost £100 million
The electromagnets are built from coils of special electric cable that operates in a superconducting state, efficiently conducting electricity without resistance or loss of energy.
These collisions generate new particles, which are measured by detectors surrounding the interaction points.
A view of the LHC’s Compact Muon Solenoid experiment is shown
By analysing these collisions, physicists from all over the world are deepening our understanding of the laws of nature.
While the LHC is able to produce up to 1 billion proton-proton collisions per second, the HL-LHC will increase this number, referred to by physicists as ‘luminosity’, by a factor of between five and seven, allowing about 10 times more data to be accumulated between 2026 and 2036.
This means that physicists will be able to investigate rare phenomena and make more accurate measurements.
For example, the LHC allowed physicists to unearth the Higgs boson in 2012, thereby making great progress in understanding how particles acquire their mass. The subatomic particle had long been theorised but wasn’t confirmed until 2013.