Scientists have finally cracked the code on cosmic neutrinos – those high-energy particles that have been zipping through the universe and occasionally passing right through us.
These little guys, most of them at least, usually come from our sun or Earth's atmosphere, but there's a special breed of them that originate from powerful sources much farther away. After years of searching, the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole has collected enough of these cosmic neutrinos to create the first-ever map of the Milky Way using neutrinos instead of photons.
The map shows a hazy distribution of these cosmic neutrinos throughout our galaxy, but no standout sources! It's got scientists scratching their heads as they try to figure out what's causing them.
In a groundbreaking discovery, IceCube recently linked some of these cosmic neutrinos to a specific source, the heart of an active galaxy called NGC 1068, whose core has a supermassive black hole that's somehow generating these cosmic neutrinos. This discovery is like hitting the jackpot for neutrino astronomers because it opens up the door to using cosmic neutrinos to explore fundamental physics, like testing the standard model of particle physics and even delving into quantum descriptions of gravity.
The mechanism behind these cosmic neutrinos from active galaxies is still a mystery, and there might be multiple processes at play. While we're making strides in understanding the universe's secrets, there's still plenty moe to learn.