Astronomers recorded the most energetic solar radiation in history

Astronomers have detected gamma-ray particles that come from our sun and have unprecedented energy. The High Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) detector located in the Mexican highlands helped to record them.

The sun has generated high-energy particles. Source: NASA/SDO

HAWC Observations

Scientists from more than 30 scientific institutions in Europe, Asia and North America have recently published the results of a 6-year study that revealed the most energetic particles that have ever flown from the Sun to the Earth. 

To do this, they used the High Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) detector. It consists of several traps for high-energy particles, which are located inside huge water tanks that stand on top of a mountain in Mexico.

Due to its design, it is one of the few instruments that can register gamma rays not only at night, but also during the day. Of course, they do not reach the Earth themselves, but they generate other elementary particles that fall into the HAWC tanks and generate Cherenkov radiation, which it registers.

Therefore, it is not surprising that this particular instrument, observing the Sun from 2014 to 2021, found the rays of the Sun to have an energy of 0.5 to 2.6 TeV. And with this, it surprised scientists quite a lot, who did not expect this from our Sun.

What gave rise to high-energy particles?

The energy of a particle is closely related to its frequency. That is why the “brightest” are actually gamma rays, which we do not see but which we are very afraid of because this is the most terrible radiation. The values obtained at HAWC were not record for such particles because we once received a message from one of the pulsars, which had an energy of 450 TeV.

But no one expected this from the Sun, which is the most studied star in the Universe. It is believed that there are simply no processes that can accelerate particles so much. Although recent studies of magnetic fields that are in complete chaos on our luminary have shown that they are still capable of this.

However, the authors of the current study have another assumption about the origin of the particles. In their opinion, the root cause of them could be even more high-energy rays from somewhere in space, perhaps from some pulsar. They hit the atmosphere of the Sun, crashed into its constituent atoms and caused the appearance of new particles, which flew towards the Earth.

According to

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