First 'ghost particle' image of Milky Way galaxy captured by scientists

A composite image of an optical view of the Milky Way along with the first neutrino-based image.

A composite image of an optical view of the Milky Way along with the first neutrino-based image.

June 29, 2023

Elusive neutrinos reveal a portrait of our galaxy unlike any before.

From visible starlight to radio waves, the Milky Way galaxy has long been observed through the various frequencies of electromagnetic radiation it emits. Scientists have now revealed a uniquely different image of our galaxy by determining the galactic origin of thousands of neutrinos — invisible "ghost particles" which exist in great quantities but normally pass straight through Earth undetected. The neutrino-based image of the Milky Way is the first of its kind: a galactic portrait made with particles of matter rather than electromagnetic energy.

The breakthrough was achieved by a collaboration of researchers using the U.S. National Science Foundation-supported IceCube Neutrino Observatory at NSF's Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica. The immense observatory detects the subtle signs of high-energy neutrinos from space by using thousands of networked sensors buried deep within a cubic kilometer of clear, pristine ice. The results were revealed at an event at Drexel University and published in the journal Science.

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