For the first time in scientific history, researchers have discovered high energy light beaming across our galaxy from the edges of an unknown star system. Looking at what this means, Sputnik spoke to Professor Jordan Goodman, an astrophysicist at the University of Maryland who led the research.
Sputnik: For the first time, high energy light, beaming from the edges of a “weird” star system within our galaxy has been detected. Could you explain the significance behind this research?
Jordan Goodman: If you look up at the sky you see gamma rays and our galaxy glowing as well as other spots in the sky that are other galaxies but they are a specific kind; they are the kind that has a massive super massive black hole at their core. They shoot these jets out that are pointing at us and they are called blazars. If you look up, you see these things which are bright and bright as our own galaxy and they’re millions of times further away. We simply want to understand the process that’s producing this extraordinary energy in other galaxies. In our own galaxy we have something called a microquasar and what a microquasar is, is a single black hole the size of a few solar masses maybe and a companion star with some material in and amazingly enough, it also has these jets coming out of it. We had an opportunity to look at this thing which is called SS433, we didn’t discover it, it has been seen previously on other way lengths but it was the first time someone has observed it in high energy gamma rays. What’s interesting about this particular microquasar is that’s not orientated so the jets are pointing towards us – we are looking at it sideways. What we had the opportunity to do was understand what was going on where we are not looking down the barrel of the gun. In our experiment we looked at the whole overhead sky every day. What we see from this thing is, we see the two endpoints of the jet glowing and that really interesting and weird because we have yet to observe high energy gamma rays.
Sputnik: What do these findings mean for future projects and studies on space and the universe?
Jordan Goodman: The thing we learnt from this which is really interesting is that high energy electrons are being accelerated at the end of these jets. What we are trying to learn is where we can apply this to other observations. What we are trying do is work out the highest energy particles in the universe come from and this year there was a huge breakthrough where the icecube detector, which is a neutrino experiment under the south pole, discover a neutrino coming from a blazar. Having this thing in our galaxy, which is like a little model of one of these things is really exciting to look at.
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