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Extremely powerful cosmic ray hits the Earth and no one knows where it came from

Rhianna Benson

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| Last updated 

Extremely powerful cosmic ray hits the Earth and no one knows where it came from

Featured Image Credit: Osaka Metropolitan University/L - Insight, Kyoto University/Ryuunosuke Takeshige/Teekid/Getty

Earth and space continue to pose baffling questions and mysterious phenomena to the human race on an almost daily basis.

And this week, scientists studying our planet's atmosphere made a startling discovery.

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It's very rarely that something 'earth-shattering' appears or occurs within our galaxy without experts being able to pinpoint its cause or origin.

This being said, scientists were left dumbfounded this week when an extremely powerful cosmic ray smacked down into the Earth's atmosphere... with no apparent cause.

The event has absolutely gobsmacked astrophysicists.

Despite the minuscule particle carrying in excess of 240 exa-electron volts of energy, experts are finding it nigh on impossible to track the the cosmic ray to an obvious source.

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Earth has been hit by a cosmic ray. Credit: Getty
Earth has been hit by a cosmic ray. Credit: Getty

John Matthews - a physicist at the University of Utah - told press this week: "The particles are so high energy, they shouldn't be affected by galactic and extra-galactic magnetic fields.

"You should be able to point to where they come from in the sky."

The moment that a cosmic ray his the Earth's atmosphere, it collides with other particules, and in turn, producing a shower of particles, which subsequently fall to Earth.

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Observatories pick up on these shows, and link them to cosmic ray collision.

Matthews - who is a member of the Telescope Array collaboration that made the discovery - added that the huge number of exa-electron volts of energy makes the ray second only to the mind-blowing 'Oh-My-God' particle.

The cosmic ray has left scientists baffled. Credit: Getty/Dr Pixels
The cosmic ray has left scientists baffled. Credit: Getty/Dr Pixels

This was detected back in 1991 at a colossal 320 exa-electron volts.

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"But in the case of the Oh-My-God particle and this new particle, you trace its trajectory to its source and there's nothing high energy enough to have produced it," Matthews explained.

"That's the mystery of this – what the heck is going on?"

Like much phenomena in the realms of science and space, cosmic rays have always posed complicated conundrum.

Though scientists have had the ability to detect them - and have done for over a century, they still don't have a full understanding as to how they can be propagated throughout the Universe.

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This is because, unlike light, cosmic rays are not made from radiation.

The cosmic ray can be caused by a supernova. Credit: Getty/Yuichiro Chino
The cosmic ray can be caused by a supernova. Credit: Getty/Yuichiro Chino

Instead, they're particles - predominantly atomic nuclei - but also sub-nuclear particles, like protons and electrons.

These do stream through the Universe at close to the speed of light, however, but have much more power than they should have.

It is common belief amongst experts that these cosmic rays are produced in energetic circumstances - such as in supernovas and stellar collisions.

Lower-energy cosmic rays can also be produced by less energetic sources, like stars (including the Sun).

The research team who made the latest cosmic ray discovery have fittingly named the new particle Amaterasu, after the Shinto goddess of the sun.

Topics: Technology, Science, Space

Rhianna Benson
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