Astounding Gamma Ray Activity Detected on the Sun

Researchers from Michigan State University have shared an unexpected finding about our Sun: it’s given off an incredibly high number of super bright gamma rays. This information has not only smashed past records but also brought up a whole new set of questions regarding the Sun’s characteristics and actions. As reported in the journal Physical Review Letters, astronomers at the university detected these emissions using the High-Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) Observatory, situated between two dormant volcanoes at an elevation of 13,500 feet in Southern Mexico.

Gamma Ray Observations

Scientists detected more uber-energetic gamma rays, light with wavelengths carrying the most energy of any in the electromagnetic spectrum, coming out of the Sun than expected. The Sun was found to be emitting gamma rays with energies ranging between one and 10 trillion electron volts, while light detectable by our eyes from the Sun carries roughly one single electron volt.

The HAWC Observatory, a network of 300 gigantic water tanks each containing 200 metric tons of water, detected these rays. When high-energy particles from space collide with the water in these tanks, they produce a bluish glow known as Cherenkov radiation.

While these gamma rays themselves don’t reach Earth, their “telltale signatures” are identifiable through the sophisticated equipment at the HAWC Observatory.

Data Collection and Analysis

Dr. Meher Un Nisa, a postdoctoral research associate at Michigan State University and co-author of the study, and her team started collecting gamma-ray data in 2015. They began their analysis in 2021, after six years of data collection.

Their analysis revealed a shockingly high emission of gamma rays from the Sun. “After looking at six years’ worth of data, out popped this excess of gamma rays,” said Nisa in a press release from the university. “When we first saw it, we were like, We definitely messed this up. The Sun cannot be this bright at these energies.”

However, the team soon realized that the Sun was, indeed, emitting such high-energy gamma rays.

Implications and Future Research

The amazing discoveries have led to a lot of queries about the Sun’s features, like how its magnetic field contributes to the recently seen gamma-ray event. Even though people have predicted since the 1990s that the Sun could give off gamma rays, it was mostly thought that these rays could not be seen from our planet. This research has proved otherwise. This research has significant implications for the field of solar physics, opening up new avenues of research about our home star. This discovery underscores the fact that even our most studied and familiar celestial body still harbors many mysteries.

Dr. Nisa’s team, along with scientists from North America, Europe, and Asia, will continue to explore the nature of these gamma rays and their possible impacts on our understanding of our Sun.

Nisa concluded, “This shows that HAWC is adding to our knowledge of our galaxy at the highest energies, and it’s opening up questions about our very own Sun. It’s making us see things in a different light. Literally.”

These revelations about our Sun remind us of the vast and often surprising nature of our universe, challenging our understanding of even the most familiar celestial bodies.