NASA scientists have made an impressive discovery that links a rare particle called a high-energy neutrino to an object outside our galaxy for only the second time ever. Scientists are using both terrestrial and space technologies, including NASA’s Nile Gerells Swift Observatory, to track a neutrino directly to a black hole in a star-ripping process.
A black hole process that eats up a star, known as a tidal disturbance event, is rare. NASA notes Astrophysicists have theorized that tidal disturbances can produce high-energy neutrinos, but this is the first time that a high-energy particle has been linked to observational evidence. The event in question is called AT2019dsg, and scientists note that the event did not generate neutrinos when or how scientists predicted.
An unexpected observation helps the team better understand how this phenomenon works. Neutrinos, called fundamental particles, are much more numerous than all of the atoms in the universe but rarely interact with other matter. High-energy neutrinos are especially interesting to astrophysicists because they have energies up to 1,000 times greater than those produced by the most powerful particle colliders on Earth.
Scientists believe that some of the most extreme events in the universe, such as violent galactic explosions, could accelerate particles to nearly the speed of light. These extremely fast particles collide with light or other particles in the universe and produce high-energy neutrinos. The first high-energy neutrino source was discovered in 2018 and is a type of active galaxy called blazar.
In this case, a tidal disturbance event causes the formation of neutrinos. Tidal disturbances occur when a star is very close to a black hole, and gravitational forces create an intense tide that tears the star apart and creates a stream of gas. The back of the current escapes the system as the front part swings backward, surrounding the black hole with a debris disc. In some cases, the black hole releases fast-moving jets of particles. The researchers hypothesized that this type of event would create neutrinos early in evolution during peak brightness.