Supernova remnants have always been a feast to the eye. Despite them being what was left after a star died, despite the violent circumstances that had happened for it to become a supernova remnant, they still have a certain beauty unsurpassed by anything else in the universe.
Such a supernova remnant is the Crab Nebula found in the constellation of Taurus, 6,500 light years from Earth. It spans around 10 light years, but it is constantly expanding at a rate of approximately 1,500 km per second. At the center of the nebula there is a neutron star called the Crab Pulsar. This neutron star is the source of gamma rays and radio waves that constantly are cast out and hit Earth. The Crab Nebula was first discovered in 1054 A.D. and since then has been the center of attention of many astronomers.
The most powerful gamma rays detected on Earth
As of recently, astronomers from the Tibetan air shower array tracked down some of the most powerful gamma rays that hit Earth. The source? The Crab Nebula. The air shower array, which was built at 4,300 meters above sea level, is specially designed to detect ultra-high-energy cosmic rays particles that enter the atmosphere of our planet.
Despite being some of the most impressive cosmic rays ever detected, they do not pose a danger to human beings as the Earth’s atmosphere compels them to fall apart into subatomic particles. This also demonstrates the power of the air shower array that is able to easily detect these subatomic particles.
The cosmic rays hit Earth 24 times. The energy of these gamma rays was measured to reach more than 100 TeV (100 trillion electronvolts). As a comparison, a mosquito has the energy of 1 TeV, while the Large Hadron Collider of 14 TeV.
The Japanese and Chinese scientists in Tibet are not the only ones to have detected these rays. Scientists at the High Altitude Water Cherenkov Gamma-Ray Observatory in Mexico also spotted them.
The examination of these cosmic rays might lead to the gathering of more data about the neutron star that resides at the center of the Crab Nebula.