science 3.10.2017 15:50

Slovenian scientists help solve mystery of cosmic rays

Ljubljana, 3 October - An international team featuring several Slovenian scientists has discovered that cosmic rays with exceptionally high energies come from far beyond the Milky Way, in what is a solution to a mystery that has puzzled scientists for over fifty years.

Ljubljana
Slovenian researchers taking part in the Pierre Auger Collaboration: Danilo Zavrtanik, Lili Yang, Ahmed Saleh, Marta Trini, Gašper Kukec Mezek, Sergey Vorobyev, Andrej Filipčič, Marko Zavrtanik and Samo Stanič.
Photo: University of Nova Gorica

The Pierre Auger collaboration, which works with data collected by the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina, collected observational evidence demonstrating that cosmic rays with energies a million times greater than that of the protons accelerated in the Large Hadron Collider come from much further away than from our own galaxy.

Ever since the existence of cosmic rays with individual energies of several Joules was established in the 1960s, speculation has raged as to whether such particles are created there or in distant extragalactic objects.

The team featured researchers from the University of Nova Gorica and the Jožef Stefan Institute and their findings were published in the high-impact scientific journal Science. The University of Nova Gorica said the result was revolutionary.

These measurements per se are insufficient to identify the actual source of the cosmic rays, but this will be the goal of a more precise follow-up study that will be possible once the observatory is upgraded in 2018.

"The upgraded observatory opens new possibilities for top-level research and international experience, including to Slovenian students," said Danilo Zavrtanik, the chancellor of the University of Nova Gorica and the head of the Slovenian team at the observatory.

The team comprises more than 400 scientists and Slovenia has been involved since its inception in 1994.