- A “blazar” is a supermassive black hole at the center of a faraway galaxy that’s shooting energetic jets toward Earth.
- Scientists noticed one at the same time they detected a neutrino, a whispy particle that’s one of the hardest things in the universe to find.
- The discovery, besides being super cool, could fill in the picture of what’s happening around a black hole.
In September 2017, a lonely ephemeral particle on a 4.6-billion-light-year journey made a pit stop while passing through Antarctica. And it has scientists very excited.
In research published today in Science, a group of researchers representing more than a dozen scientific projects reported a spectacular celestial event. In the center of the center of the galaxy TXS 0506+056, there is a “blazar” that’s pointed directly at Earth, and the muon neutrino discovered in Antarctica seems to have come from that faraway phenomenon. It would be the first time science has confirmed a neutrino coming from anything other than our sun or a supernova.
So what does this all mean?
Watch the live press conference starting at 11 a.m. Eastern:
Neutrinos are the second-lightest particle we know of (only a photon of light is more fleeting). They have next-to-nothing when it comes to mass, and are so light that only gravity and the weak subatomic force (which governs radioactive decay) affect their behavior.
Neutrinos come in three known “flavors”—electron, tau, and muon—all named for the particle they decay from. The Sun makes them. Nuclear plants make them. And big cosmic events make a ton of them.