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Astronomers Find Unknown Presence In The Middle Of The Milky Way

by : Poppy Bilderbeck on : 13 Nov 2021 10:21
Unknown Presence in Milky Way Thumb - Alamy/NASAAlamy/ NASA

An unknown presence that is blocking cosmic rays has been discovered in the centre of the Milky Way by astronomers.

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have been left baffled by the unknown presence in the central molecular zone (CMZ) of the Milky Way.

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Compared to the surrounding ‘sea’ of cosmic rays, the density of the rays in the CMZ was uncovered as being far lower, which could have resulted from solar masses blocking them in the form of molecular clouds.

Unknown Presence In Milky Way - Alamy Alamy

The Milky Way is between 100,000 and 200,000 light years, with a disc of dark matter on its outer edge spanning around two million light years, The Daily Mail reports.

Around 60 million solar masses can be found in the CMZ of the galaxy, many of which could be molecular clouds that are blocking the cosmic rays. Molecular clouds are a type of interstellar cloud that allow the formation of molecules, most normally hydrogen.

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Researchers stated:

We conclude that the CMZ should indeed play a role to block [cosmic rays] from entering into the very center region.

Several mechanisms can impede [cosmic rays] penetration into molecular clouds, such as the effect of magnetic field compression and the self-excited magnetohydrodynamics turbulence.

Unknown Presence in Milky Way - Nature CommunicationsNature Communications

In the study, published in scientific journal Nature Communications, the researchers ‘briefly discuss the suppression of [cosmic rays’] penetration in CMZ’, by ‘taking an analogy of the solar modulation effect where low-energy [cosmic rays] are blocked outside of the solar system by the magnetic field associated with solar winds’.

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In 2020, an Infrared Astronomy telescope from the Stratospheric Observatory was used by NASA to take an infrared image of the galaxy’s centre. The centre of the galaxy spans a distance of more than 600 light-years.

While cosmic rays remain somewhat of a mystery to scientists, data from the Fermi Large Area Telescope showed that the particles blocking the cosmic rays are similar to protons and that black holes or supernova can accelerate the particles.

Unknown Presence in Milky Way - Nature CommunicationsNature Communications

Even if scientists are unable to see it, it is known that in the middle of the Milky Way there is a supermassive black hole, called Sagittarius A*. Despite black holes normally acting as vacuums, researchers believe the hole could have impacted the blocking of the cosmic rays.

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They stated:

Likely, Sagittarius A* was more active in the past and had accelerated [cosmic rays] up to PeV energies which diffuse outwards and collide with molecular gas to produce energetic y-rays.

Finally, a component of y-rays from interactions between the CR sea and the materials in the GC region is expected to present, which is, however, not properly addressed in some analyses.

Observing cosmic rays can help scientists understand how the Milky Way exists.

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Topics: Science, Astronomy, Black Hole, Milky Way, NASA, Now, Space

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Daily Mail and 1 other
  1. Daily Mail

    Astronomers discover object at the center of the Milky Way galaxy that is blocking cosmic rays - and they say they aren't sure what it is just yet

  2. Nature Communications

    A GeV-TeV particle component and the barrier of cosmic-ray sea in the Central Molecular Zone