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Cosmic rays power supernovae

07/20/2021 at 12:16 PM CEST

Cosmic rays help supernova explosions to have a greater impact, according to a new study presented at the National Astronomy Meeting (NAM 2021). The last stage of cataclysmic explosions of massive dying stars, which generate the phenomenon called supernova, would impact up to six times the surrounding interstellar gas with the help of cosmic rays.

According to simulations of the evolution of shock waves emanating from supernova explosions over several million years, scientists found that cosmic rays can play a key role in the final stages of supernova evolution, influencing its ability to inject energy into the galactic gas that surrounds it.

To date, the influence of cosmic rays on the evolution of galaxies has not been fully understood, although they have been found to affect the energy and structure of interstellar gas in their rapid journey. They are also capable of creating the necessary conditions to stop the formation of new stars.

The enigma of cosmic rays

Despite these advances, cosmics rays they remain an unsolved unknown for science. They are known to be particles that come from space and permanently bombard the Earth from all possible directions. Many of these particles are protons or nuclei of atoms, and some of them are more energetic than any other particle that has been appreciated so far in nature.

To get an idea of ​​the energy flow that possess the ultra-energetic cosmic rays, it must be understood that these particles travel at a speed close to that of light. In addition, its energy is hundreds of millions of times higher than that of the particles produced in the most powerful and advanced accelerator developed to date.

Related topic: We travel to the ends of the solar system to solve the mystery of cosmic rays.

An extra boost

According to a press release from the Royal Astronomical Society of the United Kingdom, the new study led by researchers at the University of Oxford has shown that cosmic rays can give an “extra boost” to the interstellar gas that surrounds supernovae, allowing the final impulse of the explosion is multiplied by a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 6 times relative to the initial conditions.

The researchers’ conclusions suggest that the extra boost provided by cosmic rays is more significant if massive stars explode in low-density environments, facilitating the creation of huge gaseous structures powered by successive generations of supernovae.

Cosmic rays and the formation of galaxies

In a previous study carried out by specialists from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, it was also found that cosmic rays can play an important role in the regulation of star formation, driving the galactic winds and even in determining the character of the intergalactic medium.

In the same research, the experts indicated that the effects produced by cosmic rays can regulate the development of the disk structure of a galaxy, and that they are an important complement to other processes active in the configuration of galaxies during their formation process.

According to scientists, these discoveries are only a first step on the way to new insights that cosmic rays will provide our understanding of the complex nature of galaxy formation, allowing another advance in the challenge of solving the great enigmas of the galaxy. universe.

Photo: simulation showing areas of hot and cold gas (white / green) in the bubble and the cosmic ray filamentous structure (blue) around the supernova remnant layer. Credit: F. Rodríguez Montero.

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