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(crédito: Josh Veitch-Michaelis, IceCube/NSF)

Neutrinos reveal glimpses of the inner depths of an active galaxy

Posted on 04/11/2022 17:21

(Credit: Josh Veitch-Michaelis, IceCube/NSF)

An international team of scientists has for the first time discovered evidence of a high-energy neutrino emission from a galaxy NGC 1068also known as Messier 77. Neutrinos are non-electrically charged subatomic particles that interact with other particles only through gravity and the nuclear force.

This neutrino detection ran in IceCube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica. “IceCube has collected about 80 tera-electronvolt neutrinos from NGC 1068, which is still not enough to answer all our questions, but it is certainly the next big step toward achieving neutrino astronomy,” explains Francis Halzen, principal investigator at the observatory.

According to the expert, although the neutrino proves that there is a source in the galaxy, the observation that it contains several neutrinos can reveal the dark core of the most energetic cosmic objects. Unlike light, neutrinos can escape in large numbers from highly dense environments in the universe and reach Earth largely undisturbed by the matter and electromagnetic fields that permeate extragalactic space.


  • Messier 77 and Cats in the Sky.
    Jack Baren, IceCube/NSF; NASA / European Space Agency / A. Van der Hoeven


  • Hubble image of spiral galaxy NGC 1068.

    NASA / European Space Agency / A. Van der Hoeven

As for the galaxy NGC 1068, it is similar to the galaxy Milky Way As a narrow spiral galaxy, with loosely coiled “arms” and a relatively small central bulge. However, the properties diverge because NGC 1068 is an energetic property where stars do not produce most of the radiation, but rather occur when matter falls into a black hole millions of times larger than our Sun and even larger than our Sun. The black hole at the center of our galaxy.

Hans Niederhausen, one of the principal analysts for the neutrino study, notes that “recent models of black hole environments in these objects suggest that gas, dust, and radiation should block out gamma rays that would otherwise accompany neutrinos.” “This detection of neutrinos from the core of NGC 1068 will improve our understanding of the environments surrounding supermassive black holes.”

discoveries, reported in the scientific journal Sciences This Friday (4/11) – which can be read in full at this link –, represents a significant improvement over a previous study of NGC 1068 published in 2020, according to Ignacio Tapoada, a spokesperson for the IceCube Collaboration. “Part of that improvement came from improved techniques and another part came from a careful update of the detector’s calibration,” he says. “The work of the detector’s operations and calibration teams has enabled better vectorial reconstruction of neutrinos to accurately identify NGC 1068 and enable this observation,” he says.

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