Serendipitous Cosmic Ray Data Gathered

MADISON, Wis., July 28 (UPI) — A particle observatory at the South Pole has produced a scientific result about a phenomenon the telescope was not even designed to study, researchers say.

The IceCube Neutrino Observatory, designed to capture evidence of elusive but scientifically important subatomic particles called neutrinos, offered up some unexpected new science about cosmic rays, a University of Wisconsin-Madison release said Tuesday.


A “skymap” of cosmic rays falling on the Earth’s Southern Hemisphere showed previously undiscovered patterns, with more detected in some parts of the sky than in others, the release said.

“IceCube was not built to look at cosmic rays. Cosmic rays are considered background,” UWM researcher Rasha Abbasi said. “However, we have billions of events of background downward cosmic rays that ended up being very exciting.”

A similar unevenness, called “anisotropy,” has been detected in the Northern Hemisphere by previous experiments, Abbasi says, but its source is still a mystery.

“To see this anisotropy extending to the Southern Hemisphere sky is an additional piece of the puzzle around this enigmatic effect — whether it’s due to the magnetic field surrounding us or to the effect of a nearby supernova remnant, we don’t know,” she says.

“We can predict some models, but we don’t have concrete knowledge of the magnetic field on small scales,” Abbasi says. “It would be really nice if we did — we would have made a lot more progress in the field.”

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