back to article Cosmic ray source riddle mystery now even more mysterious

Boffins are now even more puzzled about where high-energy cosmic rays come from after a new study showed that gamma ray bursts are probably not to blame. Cosmic rays hitting Earth Cosmic rays hitting Earth. Credit: NSF/J. Yang Astroboffins only had two theories about what causes cosmic rays, which regularly penetrate Earth …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yes, but surely the more important question is

    Did they find anyone who had been bombarded by cosmic rays and could:

    Stretch their anatomy

    Produce flames from any part of their body

    Had all bodily organic matter turn to stone

    Act badly, sorry I'm thinking of the film, I meant turn invisible and create "force fields"

    And did they find anyone named Norrin with shiny silver skin?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yes, but surely the more important question is

      Yes, yes they did.

  2. Filippo Silver badge

    My theory

    Stray shots from alien spaceship battles.

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Chris Miller

      Whatever produces cosmic rays would reasonably be expected to produce copious amounts of gamma rays and neutrinos. I think what they're saying is that there's no burst of neutrinos detected that can be linked to GRBs, so they can't be the source of cosmic rays.

      Useless factoid of the day: the highest energy cosmic rays consist of a proton/other atomic nucleus having the kinetic energy of a tennis ball served by a Wimbledon ace.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        "...of a tennis ball served by a Wimbledon ace."

        So what's with the big ice cube and looking for blue glows then? Can't they just lay down a few white lines and look for puffs of chalk dust?

        1. mccp

          Even better, use Hawkeye - then they could track the particle's route back to source.

          (Mine's the one with the ball boy in the pocket).

        2. Stoneshop Silver badge

          "chalk dust"

          Then let's keep John McEnroe away from this detector.

    2. Rob Carriere

      "Gamma ray burst" is a name for an astronomical phenomenon. These things produce large amounts of gamma rays for brief periods, hence the name. And apparently the models for how they work say that _if_ they also produce cosmic rays, then they must produce neutrinos. No neutrinos observed, therefore no cosmic rays. (Or the model is wrong, but it would take a different experiment to show that.)

      So the answer to your question is 'neither'. There is a theory that says that gamma rays, neutrinos and cosmic rays may all be co-produced by a GRB and that theory is now less plausible, because the neutrinos are missing.

  4. wiggers


    "...while searching for the neutrinos that are believed to be linked with cosmic ray generation, and found none."

    Did they remember to turn it on?

  5. The Axe

    James Bond

    Is it me or does the Ice Cube Observatory look like it's come straight out of a James Bond film? Looks like a classic evil henchman's lair.

    1. A. Coatsworth
      Thumb Up

      Re: James Bond

      It reminded me of the Siberian missions in Goldeneye (the video game)... the only thing missing is a blocky Spetnaz dude making cartwheels

      1. Chris Glen-smith

        Re: James Bond

        I was thinking Thunderbirds, right down to the dark image. Uh oh! Is the crude looking mechanical reactor temperature indicator moving up rather jerkily?

  6. andy 45

    @AC - No, more importantly.

    Have these bursts of Gamma rays made anyone turn green, rip off their shirt and parade around the streets turning cars over?

    1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      Re: @AC - No, more importantly.

      Boris Johnson?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Energy, Dark Energy, now Mysterious Blue Energy?

    Weapon potential apparently

  8. Bill Neal

    the IceCube detector

    I'm sure I have one in my freezer. Never seen it blue though, probably because of earth's natural protection at subtropical latitudes

  9. alpine


    Wow, weird looking place. is that where Superman grew up?

  10. Pete the not so great

    Intergalactic soap operas?

    Extra-solar enders

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only one solution...

    ...they are made of flying spaghetti.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gamma bursts

    It's obviously starships dropping out of FTL travel using Alcubierre drives.

  13. Richard Pennington 1

    The faint blue light ...

    The faint blue light is caused when neutrinos interact with the atoms in the ice, causing electrically charged particles (electrons and/or bits of nucleus) to recoil faster than the speed of light (in the ice, where the speed of light is slower than in a vacuum). It's called Cerenkov radiation.

    Still, exceeding the local speed limit causes blue lights even at subatomic scales.

  14. asdf
    Thumb Up

    long live the oh my god particle

    Cosmic ray particles with even higher energies have since been observed. Among them was the Oh-My-God particle observed on the evening of 15 October 1991 over Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. Its observation was a shock to astrophysicists, who estimated its energy to be approximately 3×10^20 eV (50 J)[3]—in other words, a subatomic particle with kinetic energy equal to that of a baseball (5 ounces or 142 grams) traveling at about 100 kilometers per hour (60 mph). It was most probably a proton traveling at about (1 − 5×10−24) metres per second slower than the speed of light (approximately 0.9999999999999999999999951c), so close that in a year-long race between light and the particle, the particle would fall behind only 46 nanometers (5×10−24 light-years), or 0.15 femtoseconds (1.5×10−16 s).

    1. asdf

      Re: long live the oh my god particle

      Just think of the massive amount of energy it would take to get a proton moving so close to the speed of light. Had to be black holes involved.

      1. Guido Brunetti

        Re: long live the oh my god particle

        "Massive amounts of energy"? Nor for a that single proton. A good baseball thrower would apparently be enough :-). If you take them all together though...

        1. asdf

          Re: long live the oh my god particle

          obviously the energy amount is not all that relatively huge until you realize its concentrated into a single particle. As more stealing shows, The energy of this particle is some 40 million times that of the highest energy protons that have been produced in any terrestrial particle accelerator.

      2. Nigel 11

        Re: long live the oh my god particle

        Well, if the process was 100% efficient, the amount of energy needed is as stated in the article. It's just that we don't have a clue how to concentrate that much energy into a single particle.

        Perhaps there are weakly interacting massive particles left over from the big bang, that decompose into high-energy protons with a long halflife, much like radioactive nuclei. There's good evidence for the first part of that statement. Cosmologists call them "dark matter". The other half is speculation.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "glacial ice" ? opposed to watery or steamy ice?

    Or does it mean "ice from a glacier" ?

    1. Ru

      Todays lesson: adjectives!

      Glacial: of, or pertaining to a glacier. Therefore, ice from a glacier is glacial.

  16. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    Ice Cube

    Rapper, actor, astrophysicist - is there anything the man can't do?

    OK, maybe not acting.

  17. JohnMurray


    Haven't they got a computer model to do it all yet ?

    Better get the met office on the job....better than sitting on top of a 1KM cube of ice....that'll do the piles no good at all.

  18. ZenCoder

    This is how science works.

    You make a bunch of guesses and then come up with experiments that create evidence for and against your guesses.

    In Science being able to disprove something is just as important an accomplishment as being able to prove something.

  19. Marshalltown

    Obviously, the theory is mostly right --

    They simply forgot to account for the neutrino's FTL speed.

    1. Robert Heffernan

      Re: Obviously, the theory is mostly right --

      Hey! I was going to Troll that!


  20. Bounty

    Well, to be fair, neutrinos dont like to be detected. I think there has only been 1 confirmed detected, extrasolar point source of neutrinos other than the sun, supernova 1987A. "On the average, neutrinos can penetrate four light years of lead before being stopped" So chances of bouncing off a km of ice is pretty low.

    1. Ru

      Sure, but fusion reactions produce so very, very many of them that the odds are good that some will be detected. Supernova 1987A was 168000 light years away, and despite the phenomally small likelihood of a neutrino from there intersecting a terrestrial neutrino detector, we saw maybe 2 dozen of them.

      Have a think about the density of neutrino emission that implies.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gamma ray bursts

    Maybe the neutrinos go in the opposite direction to the cosmic rays?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Astroboffins only had two theories...

    Seems they've forgotten about the synchrotron theory then. The thinking behind this was that cosmic ray particles could acquire their high energies from the electric charge of galaxies. In this scenario, a remote galaxy acts like a _really_ large hadron collider, with particles circling the entire galaxy, and gaining energy as they do so, until they're flipped out, across space, and end up here.

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