Scientists surprised by mysterious barrier at the core of our galaxy

It also accelerates some cosmic rays to close to the speed of light.

Rays forbidden

A team of Chinese scientists has discovered a mysterious barrier that appears to prevent cosmic rays from penetrating to the center of the Milky Way. Even more bizarrely, it seems that the same region is accelerating these rays to bladder speeds.

Research underscores how difficult it is to get an accurate reading of what the hell is going on inside the swirling sphere of excited cosmic rays that make up the center of our galaxy.

Very energetic events, such as two galaxies smashing into each other, or objects such as supermassive black holes, spew out storms of cosmic rays, which are essentially similar to protons. These rays are often accelerated to almost the speed of light by these events and celestial bodies, which interact in fascinating ways with the magnetic field of our galaxies, which appear to form them into what is referred to as the cosmic “ocean.”

Supermassive black holes

Scientists’ working theory is that there is a supermassive black hole called Sagittarius A * that sits in the center of our galaxy, whipping cosmic rays into a whirlwind.

In their paper published this week in the journal Nature communication, the team found that some of these rays were unable to push past a dense barrier and penetrate a central molecular cloud of interstellar dust and hydrogen gas known as the cosmic ray sea.

The team used data collected using the Fermi Large Area Telescope, a space observatory that analyzes a host of cosmological phenomena, including gamma-ray bursts and solar flares.

Other rays that were not completely stopped by this barrier first slowed the speed and then set the speed up again mysteriously as they passed through the central cloud, leading scientists to believe that there is something like a particle accelerator in the galactic center.

The most obvious answer to this acceleration would be the existence of Sagittarius A * – but the team was unable to come to a final conclusion or rule out other possible explanations, including the remnants of a supernova.

In other words, there are still many questions when it comes to the turbulent center of our galaxy. This new research just shows how much there is still to learn.

READ MORE: Data from the Fermi Large Area Telescope suggest that there is a particle accelerator in the galactic center [Phys.org]

More about Sagittarius: Nobel laureate to fall into a black hole: “I would not would”

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