Scientists record the highest-energy sunlight ever and it is far beyond what they thought was possible
In the vast expanse of our universe, even the most familiar celestial bodies can surprise us. Take our sun, for instance.
Recent observations have unveiled that it emits gamma rays with energy levels that are simply staggering, challenging our previous understanding of this star's capabilities.
Researchers, using the High-Altitude Water Cherenkov Observatory (HAWC), have detected gamma rays from the sun that reach up to an astonishing 10 trillion electron volts. This is a significant leap from what was previously thought possible. Gamma rays, known for their high energy in the electromagnetic spectrum, have been found in greater abundance emanating from the sun than initially believed. This revelation means that the sun's gamma rays are incredibly luminous, shining brighter than ever imagined.
The HAWC, strategically positioned between two dormant peaks of the Sierra Negra volcano in Mexico, played a pivotal role in this discovery. This observatory, equipped with 300 tanks filled with 220 tons of water each, measures energy signals from gamma rays and cosmic rays. When these gamma rays interact with our atmosphere, they produce a cascade of subatomic particles, which HAWC detects. The data gathered from 2015 to 2021 led to the groundbreaking observation of solar gamma radiation exceeding 1 trillion electron volts of energy.
Mehr Un Nisa, a key figure behind the study, expressed the team's initial disbelief, remarking, "When we first saw it, we thought, 'This can't be right. The sun can't possibly be this radiant at these energy levels.'" Yet, the data was undeniable.
However, the mystery deepens. Scientists are still grappling with understanding how these solar gamma rays achieve such monumental energy levels and why they are so abundant. As Ofer Cohen, a solar physicist, aptly put it, these unresolved questions are the driving force of science, propelling us forward in our quest for knowledge.
In the grand tapestry of the cosmos, this discovery serves as a reminder that there's always more to learn, even from the stars we think we know best.