A messenger from a galaxy very faraway has reached us. The galaxy was a Blazar of name TXS 0506+056 located 5.708 billion light-years away. Even the fastest thing the universe, the photons would take 5.7 billion years to traverse the distance between us and TXS 0505+056. Blazars are one of the most luminous and active bodies in the universe. They are similar to QUASARs. They are the hosts of one universe’s most powerful and energetic places, the AGNs (Active Galactic Nuclei). These AGNs are powered by SMBHs (Super Massive Black Holes). They generate a tremendous amount of energy that cannot be created at the earth, by our sun, by other stars or even the largest of the stellar Black holes. The energy levels soar up to several Peta electron volts.

TXS 0506+056 hosts such a black hole. It can create relativistic jets comprising of sub-atomic and sub-nuclear particles created in the high energy fissions and fusions at the AGN. The particles created will have very high energies compared to their counterparts created at earth by the likes of CERN.

About 5 billion years ago even before the genesis of the earth, out there in the blazar TXS 0506+056 this happened. A powerful particle acceleration involving a proton-proton collision generating one of the most elusive particles of nature, the neutrino – nicknamed as the ghost particle, the relativistic jet. The jet accelerated the messenger(neutrino) along with a lot of other particles like muons and the gamma radiation. They were accelerated towards a location in the universe that was hitherto empty indistinct and lifeless. The messenger travelled at almost close the speed of light. Our ghost messenger was the Tyson Gay of the particle universe with Photons being the Usain bolt of them. Even at that speed, the journey is for eternity.

About 5 billion years later. The empty space that the jet was directed to has evolved into a much different thing. It had earth which was now aged 4.54 years. The earth evolved from being a hot molten ball to becoming a green and blue globe. It now hosted intelligent beings that have survived an Ice age, two world wars and nuclear bombings. The intelligent beings were now smart enough to slow the messenger who has been travelling or 5 billion years tirelessly for a while.

It was 22/09/2017 CE. The IceCube Neutrino Observatory or simply IceCube is located in the planet’s loneliest place, at the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica. Our messenger from a very faraway galaxy, directed right towards the earth and to the south pole, passed through the IceCube’s neutrino detectors placed at almost 2400 meters beneath the thick Antarctic ice. This event triggered an alert that provoked other observatories around the world to look into it. Together it was confirmed that it was a neutrino from the Blazar TXS 0506+056 in the Orion constellation.

Why is this important?

  • The maximum attained energy at earth is 14TeV (14×1012 eV) by the Large Hadron Collider of CERN. If we need to probe further smaller particle and string theory where the strings are of the order of plank length, the energy required is so high. Even the proposed 100TeV accelerator is not enough, though it would be of great use to study the particle universe.
  • The celestial particle accelerators (AGNs) of the Blazars and QUASARs normally boast energies as high as 15PeV (15×1015 eV). Such energy levels could create a particle that cannot be created at the earth, like the observed neutrino by IceCube.
  • The highest energy neutrino detected by IceCube had 2.6PeV. Such energy levels are not even attainable by solar neutrinos (neutrinos from the nuclear reactions in the Sun) or the atmospheric neutrinos.
  • This could lead to breakthrough discoveries. The detection of the IceCube neutrino from the Blazar TTXS 0506+056 has summoned the dawn of new age astronomy, the Multi-Messenger Astronomy.


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