‘Extreme Universe’ puzzle deepens

Jason Palmer at the BBC:

ScreenHunter_01 Apr. 19 19.07The mystery surrounding the source of the highest-energy particles known in the Universe has grown deeper.

The particles, known as cosmic rays, can show up with energies a million times higher than the biggest particle accelerators on Earth can produce.

Astrophysicists believed that only two sources could make them: supermassive black holes in active galaxies, or so-called gamma ray bursts.

A study in Nature has now all but ruled out gamma ray bursts as the cause.

Gamma ray bursts (GRBs) are the brightest events we know of, though their sources remain a matter of some debate. They can release in hours more energy than our Sun will ever produce.

Computer models predict that GRBs could be the source of cosmic rays – mostly subatomic particles called protons, accelerated to incredibly high speeds.

But they were also predicted to produce a stream of neutrinos, the slippery subatomic particles recently brought to fame in claims of faster-than-light travel.

So researchers at the IceCube neutrino telescope went looking for evidence of neutrino arrival that coincided with measurements of gamma ray bursts detected by the Fermi and Swift space telescopes.

But it found none – suggesting that active galactic nuclei, where supermassive black holes reside, are likely to be the source.

More here.