VERITAS detects gamma rays from galaxy halfway across the visible universe

December 15, 2015
This artist's conception shows a blazar -- the core of an active galaxy powered by a supermassive black hole. The VERITAS array has detected gamma rays from a blazar known as PKS 1441+25. Researchers found that the source of the gamma rays was within the relativistic jet but surprisingly far from the galaxy's black hole. The emitting region is at least a tenth of a light-year away, and most likely is 5 light-years away. Credit: M. Weiss/CfA

In April 2015, after traveling for about half the age of the universe, a flood of powerful gamma rays from a distant galaxy slammed into Earth's atmosphere. That torrent generated a cascade of light - a shower that fell onto the waiting mirrors of the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS) in Arizona. The resulting data have given astronomers a unique look into that faraway galaxy and the black hole engine at its heart.

Gamma rays are photons of with very high energies. These came from a galaxy known as PKS 1441+25, which is a rare type of galaxy known as a blazar. At its center it hosts a surrounded by a disk of hot gas and dust.

As material from the disk swirls toward the black hole, some of it gets channeled into twin jets that blast outward like water from a fire hose only much faster - close to the speed of light. One of those jets is aimed nearly in our direction, giving us a view straight into the galaxy's core.

"We're looking down the barrel of this relativistic jet," explains Wystan Benbow of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). "That's why we're able to see the gamma rays at all."

One of the unknowns in blazar physics is the exact location of gamma-ray emission. Using data from VERITAS, as well as the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope, the researchers found that the source of the gamma rays was within the relativistic jet but surprisingly far from the galaxy's black hole. The emitting region is at least a tenth of a light-year away, and most likely is 5 light-years away. (A light-year is the distance light travels in one year, or about 6 trillion miles.)

Moreover, the region emitting gamma rays was larger than typically seen in an active galaxy, measuring about a third of a light-year across.

"These jets tend to have clumps in them. It's possible that two of those clumps may have collided and that's what generated the burst of energy," says co-author Matteo Cerruti of the CfA.

More distant blazars show a loss of higher-energy gamma rays thanks to the extragalactic background light (EBL), a "cosmic fog" of visible and ultraviolet starlight that permeates the universe. From studies of nearby blazars, scientists know how many gamma rays should be emitted at different energies. If a gamma ray on its way to Earth collides with lower-energy light in the EBL, it converts into a pair of particles and is lost to astronomers. As shown by the graphs at left in this illustration, the more distant the blazar, the fewer high-energy gamma rays we can detect. During the April 2015 outburst of PKS 1441+25, MAGIC and VERITAS saw rare gamma rays exceeding 100 GeV that managed to survive a journey of 7.6 billion light-years. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Measuring at all was a surprise. They tend to be either absorbed at the source or on their long journey to Earth. When the galaxy flared to life, it must have generated a huge flood of gamma rays.

The finding also provides insight into a phenomenon known as extragalactic background light or EBL, a faint haze of light that suffuses the universe. The EBL comes from all the stars and that have ever existed, and in a sense can track the history of the universe.

The EBL also acts like a fog to high-energy gamma rays, absorbing them as they travel through space. This new measurement sets an indirect limit on how abundant the EBL can be - too much, and it would have absorbed the gamma-ray flare. The results complement previous measurements based on direct observations.

These results have been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and are available online.

Explore further: Most distant blazar is a high-energy astrophysics puzzle

More information: iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/2041-8205/815/2/L22

iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/2041-8205/815/2/L23

Related Stories

Most distant blazar is a high-energy astrophysics puzzle

April 18, 2013

(Phys.org) —Blazars are the brightest of active galactic nuclei, and many emit very high-energy gamma rays. New observations of the blazar known as PKS 1424+240 show that it is the most distant known source of very high-energy ...

High-speed jets from a possible new class of galaxy

January 19, 2015

Seyfert galaxies are similar to spiral galaxies except that they have extraordinarily prominent, bright nuclei, sometimes as luminous as 100 billion Suns. Their huge energies are thought to be generated as matter falls towards ...

Recommended for you

Saturn's bulging core implies moons younger than thought

December 7, 2016

Freshly harvested data from NASA's Cassini mission reveals that Saturn's bulging core and twisting gravitational forces offer clues to the ages of the planet's moons. Astronomers now believe that the ringed planet's moons ...

Dark matter may be smoother than expected

December 7, 2016

Analysis of a giant new galaxy survey, made with ESO's VLT Survey Telescope in Chile, suggests that dark matter may be less dense and more smoothly distributed throughout space than previously thought. An international team ...

Giant radio flare of Cygnus X-3 detected by astronomers

December 7, 2016

(Phys.org)—Russian astronomers have recently observed a giant radio flare from a strong X-ray binary source known as Cygnus X-3 (Cyg X-3 for short). The flare occurred after more than five years of quiescence of this source. ...

Cassini transmits first images from new orbit

December 7, 2016

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has sent to Earth its first views of Saturn's atmosphere since beginning the latest phase of its mission. The new images show scenes from high above Saturn's northern hemisphere, including the planet's ...

32 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

cantdrive85
2.7 / 5 (14) Dec 15, 2015
the source of the gamma rays was within the relativistic jet but surprisingly far from the galaxy's black hole

Surprising due to the fact they only consider gravity as capable of producing these events, in direct opposition of over 125 years of direct laboratory research.

"It's possible that two of those clumps may have collided and that's what generated the burst of energy,"

Yep, only suggested possibility.
katesisco
2.5 / 5 (12) Dec 15, 2015
I read the article and am still astounded that a source so far away--1/2 the universe age---even if directed at us--amazing targeting! --with no loss of energy even tho there are galaxies rife with planets, gas clouds, dwarf galaxies, novas, dark matter, molecular hydrogen, etc., in the space between Sol's system and the blazer--I just can't believe it.
Remember Halton Arp and the still unsettled red shift controversy. Well, I wonder if our Oort shell is so magnetic still that we think we see this energy from so far away but it is actually a windup from the energy at the Oort.
viko_mx
2.3 / 5 (12) Dec 15, 2015
Big bang theorists are insisting that the matter is consolidated in cosmic structures thanks to the gravity which can no stop their fictional expansion of the universe.
SuperThunder
3.8 / 5 (13) Dec 15, 2015
amazing targeting!

It wasn't aimed. It was a coincidence.
with no loss of energy even tho there are galaxies rife with planets, gas clouds, dwarf galaxies, novas, dark matter, molecular hydrogen, etc., in the space between Sol's system and the blazer--I just can't believe it.

It obviously lost energy along the way, since otherwise there'd be a huge void between us and it right before we were obliterated too.
Remember Halton Arp and the still unsettled red shift controversy.

A lot of amazing telescopes were invented since Arp's time. People are having a hard time finding evidence for it in light of higher resolution.
https://iopscienc...2754/pdf
cantdrive85
2.6 / 5 (11) Dec 15, 2015
amazing targeting!

It wasn't aimed. It was a coincidence.
with no loss of energy even tho there are galaxies rife with planets, gas clouds, dwarf galaxies, novas, dark matter, molecular hydrogen, etc., in the space between Sol's system and the blazer--I just can't believe it.

It obviously lost energy along the way, since otherwise there'd be a huge void between us and it right before we were obliterated too.
Remember Halton Arp and the still unsettled red shift controversy.

A lot of amazing telescopes were invented since Arp's time. People are having a hard time finding evidence for it in light of higher resolution.
https://iopscienc...2754/pdf

Arp died two years ago...
my2cts
3 / 5 (10) Dec 16, 2015
Big bang theorists are insisting that the matter is consolidated in cosmic structures thanks to the gravity which can no stop their fictional expansion of the universe.

Whatever it is you are saying, you are wrong.
my2cts
3.2 / 5 (11) Dec 16, 2015
the source of the gamma rays was within the relativistic jet but surprisingly far from the galaxy's black hole

Surprising due to the fact they only consider gravity as capable of producing these events,

Surprising because you would expect highly energetic events to be close to the black hole.
in direct opposition of over 125 years of direct laboratory research.

Who has been researching black holes since 1890 in a laboratory ? Refs please.
my2cts
2.8 / 5 (9) Dec 16, 2015
I read the article and am still astounded that a source so far away--1/2 the universe age---even if directed at us--amazing targeting! --with no loss of energy even tho there are galaxies rife with planets, gas clouds, dwarf galaxies, novas, dark matter, molecular hydrogen, etc., in the space between Sol's system and the blazer--I just can't believe it.
Remember Halton Arp and the still unsettled red shift controversy. Well, I wonder if our Oort shell is so magnetic still that we think we see this energy from so far away but it is actually a windup from the energy at the Oort.

So many wrong judgements and so much ignorance in one single post.
You suggest extremely high gamma rays originate from a magnetic (!) snow ball.
That is the funniest idea I have heard in along time, thanks for the laugh.
my2cts
3 / 5 (8) Dec 16, 2015
@katesisco
If you can magnetise ice or snow, that would be a sensation.
Then if you could make it emit gamma rays, we would have to throw out all text books and start anew. Then if you could your snowball emit .2 TeV gamma's, we're stuck because we already threw out all textbooks so all that is left to do is laugh and drink Absolut (thanks for the suggestion viko).
Do you now see why it is so funny ?
viko_mx
2.5 / 5 (11) Dec 16, 2015
You do not carefully select the books you read.

Whatever it is you are saying, you are wrong.

I wonder why you keep reading my post at in this situation?

Do you have explanation how the universe does not collapse on its own gravity in its early periods, but later the evolutionist insist that the same gravity consolidate matter in it in large cosmic structures. How this is possible. Magic?
vidyunmaya
1.7 / 5 (11) Dec 16, 2015
sub; origins- Search Cause effect-Cosmology Revision Necessity
Deliberate attempts to mislead Science through Big-Bangor blackhole must be avoided.So also Redshift psychology
your info:Gamma rays are photons of light with very high energies. These gamma rays came from a galaxy known as PKS 1441+25, which is a rare type of galaxy known as a blazar.
NOW -COSMOS QUEST- origins-Links-prime to base Concepts -Cosmic Function of the universei
Cosmology is a borderlandland between science and philosophy- nature provides links as well
assuming the universe around 10^9 Light years {see Cosmic Pot Energy of the Universe-STSCI-my paper 2003 and cosmology Structures -New modelling-Carnegie symposium-3 -jan 2003]- now Heart of the universe may be viewed around Andromeda or atleast 100,000 LY beyond Milkyway frame.
vidyunmaya
1.7 / 5 (11) Dec 16, 2015
Sub: origins-cause effect-cosmology revision -necessity-Demand
now Heart of the universe may be viewed around Andromeda or at the least 100,000 LY beyond Milky way frame.
How many types of Frequencies or Colours-range can be seen around heart of the universe and how many penetrate down to the milky way ?
Out of these , Himalayan wisdom questions - Golden Shine at the Himalaya-plateau- One can see now ?
Think tanks and cosmos quest must lead -IYL2015-transcend to Conscious mode search that helps Science to advance through Cosmic consciousness to Cosmology revision {book 2000]( TXU 982-559) Books available through LULU
Vidyardhi nanduri [Cosmology world Peace-Independent research]
antialias_physorg
4.8 / 5 (11) Dec 16, 2015
You do not carefully select the books you read.

By what should one select? Belief? That would be self-defeating in any kind of search for knowledge, wouldn't it?

Do you have explanation how the universe does not collapse on its own gravity in its early periods

That's what the theory of inflation is there for. While it is not absolutely certain that inflation is the real deal that theory has made a number of remarkably precise predictions that have been verified. Any theory that can make predictions that good is a pretty good one: Homogeneity, isotropy, magnetic monopoles (specifically the absence of observed ones), and the scale invariance of observed matter clumping (a well as the minute deviation form said scale invariance to within a high degree of accuracy). There's a couple tests still ongoing. But for now no other theory comes even close (certainly not one revolving around a 'creator')
cantdrive85
2.8 / 5 (9) Dec 16, 2015
the source of the gamma rays was within the relativistic jet but surprisingly far from the galaxy's black hole

Surprising due to the fact they only consider gravity as capable of producing these events,

Surprising because you would expect highly energetic events to be close to the black hole.

Exactly, because gravity is their only possible explanation. A understanding of plasma physics (which they are devoid of) will resolve this "mystery".
in direct opposition of over 125 years of direct laboratory research.

Who has been researching black holes since 1890 in a laboratory ? Refs please.

Real laboratory plasma research, no fantasyland fictitious BH bs is needed here.
my2cts
3 / 5 (12) Dec 16, 2015
You do not carefully select the books you read.

How would you know ?
my2cts
3.6 / 5 (13) Dec 16, 2015

Surprising due to the fact they only consider gravity as capable of producing these events,

Surprising because you would expect highly energetic events to be close to the black hole.

Exactly, because gravity is their only possible explanation. A understanding of plasma physics (which they are devoid of) will resolve this "mystery".
in direct opposition of over 125 years of direct laboratory research.

Who has been researching black holes since 1890 in a laboratory ? Refs please.

Real laboratory plasma research, no fantasyland fictitious BH bs is needed here.

Submit the result of your massive simulation at least to arxiv.org and post a link here.
You can start by summing up the assumptions underlying your computation here.
Wait, I hope you wouldn't make such assertions without solid computational basis ?
my2cts
3.5 / 5 (13) Dec 16, 2015

Who has been researching black holes since 1890 in a laboratory ? Refs please.

Real laboratory plasma research, no fantasyland fictitious BH bs is needed here.

Refs please.
You have already drawn your conclusions. Why do we still need research then?
cantdrive85
2.6 / 5 (9) Dec 16, 2015
There is volumes of papers on plasma research, it is conveniently ignored by astrophysicists and apparently you.
cantdrive85
2.3 / 5 (9) Dec 16, 2015

Who has been researching black holes since 1890 in a laboratory ? Refs please.

Real laboratory plasma research, no fantasyland fictitious BH bs is needed here.

Refs please.
You have already drawn your conclusions. Why do we still need research then?

Because astrophysicists still believe in unicorns and fairy pixie dust.
my2cts
3.2 / 5 (13) Dec 16, 2015
@cd
Yeah yeah. You are full of it.
my2cts
3.3 / 5 (14) Dec 16, 2015
There is volumes of papers on plasma research, it is conveniently ignored by astrophysicists and apparently you.

Of course there is. It is a large important active area of research.
None of it, I'm sure, supports your foregone conclusions.
cantdrive85
2 / 5 (8) Dec 16, 2015
None of it, I'm sure, supports your foregone conclusions.

Not quite. Alfven predicted galactic magnetic fields in 1937 using these principles. He is responsible for enlightening astrophysicists about high energy radiation (x-rays, gamma, etc), before him only the visible spectrum was deemed important or even possible. Then there is Birkeland and the aurora, rings, sunspots, comets, etc. and the concepts he developed via lab experiment.
There are others, the list goes on, so if you really hold to your statement it is very clear your head is buried deep in your backside. Although, we know this be the case.
shavera
5 / 5 (8) Dec 17, 2015
Regardless of the state of astrophysics (real or imagined) in the 60s, astrophysicists today are *very* well read on plasma physics. Many of them are explicitly plasma physicists.

You literally create a strawman every time you post. "There is volumes of papers on plasma research, it is conveniently ignored by astrophysicists." <- the very definition of a strawman argument. You create these "astrophysicists" that don't exist and then attack them for not knowing things you've created them not to know. In no way whatsoever are your arguments founded on reality, either of a scientific nature or of your ad hominem attack strategy.
cantdrive85
2.3 / 5 (6) Dec 17, 2015
Regardless of the state of astrophysics (real or imagined) in the 60s, astrophysicists today are *very* well read on plasma physics. Many of them are explicitly plasma physicists.


And as has been explained many times, there are the theoretical fantasyland plasma physics that most astrophysicists rely on, and there are those who rely on principles developed based upon laboratory and in situ measurements. There is still a distinct divide between the two camps, if there weren't Plasma Cosmology as we know it wouldn't exist.
Captain Stumpy
4.5 / 5 (8) Dec 18, 2015
there are the theoretical fantasyland plasma physics that most astrophysicists rely on, and there are those who rely on principles developed based upon laboratory and in situ measurements
@cd
your delusional lie debunked with one link: http://www.pppl.gov/

There is volumes of papers on plasma research, it is conveniently ignored by astrophysicists and apparently you
repeating this lie over and over doesn't make it more true
it only makes you look like a complete idiot

just remember 13, cd! 13!
http://arxiv.org/...92v1.pdf

given that you have YET to prove your own comments WRT your eu vs astrophysicists and plasma physics... perhaps you should consider actually learning a little about astrophysics and real physics?
http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm
my2cts
3.4 / 5 (10) Dec 18, 2015

And as has been explained many times,

That does not make it a fact.
there are the theoretical fantasyland plasma physics that most astrophysicists rely on,

You just changed your story. At first astrophysicists knew nothing of plasma physics, now they only know nothing of whatever you subscribe to and try to push here as "Plasma Physics".
cantdrive85
2.3 / 5 (6) Dec 18, 2015
That does not make it a fact.


Well, I've shown that it is in fact, a fact. First read Alfven's Nobel lecture, he explains the two distinct lines of research.
http://www.nobelp...ture.pdf
Also note, he makes a special point to explain how misleading MHD can be. MHD is still primarily used by astrophysicists, this is the fantasyland plasma physics I mentioned.
Second, this peer-reviewed paper written 26 years later which showed what Alfven said was still valid. Note the absence of the physics which are of primary importance to plasma phenomena. Still, 30 years after that paper astrophysical literature is nearly devoid of discussions regarding double layers, CIV, pinch effects, and circuits.
https://inis.iaea...18060222
And finally, this paper describes the necessary paradigm change to acknowledge these important factors.
http://www.diva-p...LLTEXT01
Captain Stumpy
4.2 / 5 (5) Dec 18, 2015
I've shown that it is in fact, a fact
@cd
no, you showed it is what alfven "believed" to be fact
read Alfven's Nobel lecture
and again, i suggest you check those dates - things have changed in the past few decades
MHD is still primarily used by astrophysicists
13. you should have remembered 13 - you are showing yourself to be illiterate now too

the whole of your argument is a subjective belief based upon the archaic writings of a former astrophysicist who is NOT currently correct, as i've demonstrated in the above links

repeating your lies don't make them more true any more than standing in a garden makes you a garden gnome
see links above for more information
my2cts
2 / 5 (4) Dec 19, 2015
Last night I was musing over a glass of whine and posted
"Assume that the Sun had lost so many electrons that it had an average field of 5 micro V/m perpendicular to its surface, on average. Then a local, downward magnetic field wrt to the galactic plane of only a reasonable 5.5 micro Gauss would give it the same acceleration as galactic gravity does."
Sounds a bit cranky, right ?
Lets hear it.
my2cts
2 / 5 (4) Dec 19, 2015
Downvoting is so boring. Bring it on, you chicken.
Bloodyorphan
not rated yet Dec 19, 2015
Maybe to stop confusion Phys org should always express numbers as numbers.

Using short form trillion in an astronomical sense is extremely confusing

light year
noun Astronomy
noun: light year; plural noun: light years; noun: lightyear; plural noun: lightyears

a unit of astronomical distance equivalent to the distance that light travels in one year, which is 9.4607 × 10^12 km (nearly 6 million million miles).

Which is long form 9.4607 billion kilometers.
EnsignFlandry
not rated yet Dec 21, 2015
Hello all:
I have decided to become a professional troll, spammer, insulter, cynic, pseudoscientist, and all round jerk like too many here. In fact, I will create a certification in the field, to be met initially by knowing nothing about serious science, math, or logic. An essay will be required on a pseudo-scientific topic such as crop circles, Yeti, creationism, or Hillary Clinton's sense of humor. A certificate will be issued for uh, hmm, 100 USD.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.