Astronomy Cosmic ray of sunshine sheds light on superbubbles

Cosmic ray of sunshine sheds light on superbubbles

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a superbubble!

Hundreds of light-years wide, superbubbles in outer space could hold the key to one of the great mysteries of the universe – cosmic rays.

First discovered in 1912, cosmic rays were often blamed for electronics problems with satellites. Yet more than a century later, scientists are still puzzled about where they come from and what they are made of.

Using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, the astronomical minds at Western Sydney University have discovered more about what is, quite literally, over our heads.

The team have been studying 30 Doradus C, which is a giant superbubble in a dwarf satellite galaxy of the Milk Way – 170,000 light years away from earth.

The team has found the interaction of accelerated electrons with ambient light is the predominant trigger for the very high energy (VHE) gamma-rays, produced by cosmic rays.

Professor Miroslav Filipovic says understanding cosmic rays is not a far-out concept, but a matter of survival.

“High-energy radiation rays could be catastrophic for humans should the sun die or should we lose our atmosphere, our one barrier,” said Professor Filipovic.

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