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A New Map of the Universe, Painted With Cosmic Neutrinos

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The original version of this story appeared in Quanta Magazine.

Of the 100 trillion neutrinos that pass through you every second, most come from the sun or Earth’s atmosphere. But a smattering of the particles—those moving much faster than the rest—traveled here from powerful sources farther away. For decades, astrophysicists have sought the origin of these “cosmic” neutrinos. Now, the IceCube Neutrino Observatory has finally collected enough of them to reveal telltale patterns in where they’re coming from.

In a paper published in June in Science, the team revealed the first map of the Milky Way in neutrinos. (Usually our galaxy is mapped out with photons, particles of light.) The new map shows a diffuse haze of cosmic neutrinos emanating from throughout the Milky Way, but strangely, no individual sources stand out. “It’s a mystery,” said Francis Halzen, who leads IceCube.

The results follow an IceCube study from last fall, also in Science, that was the first to connect cosmic neutrinos to an individual source. It showed that a large chunk of the cosmic neutrinos…



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