{Disarmed} Cosmic shock waves score points as responsible for the subatomic particles to acquire more energy

Cosmic shock waves score points as responsible for the subatomic particles to acquire more energy

Scientists have been closely monitoring the shock waves that have been propagating through some regions of the cosmos for a long time. And they do so because they suspect that they can help us better understand the mechanisms that cause some subatomic particles to acquire more energy during their journey through space.

These shock waves are the result of very diverse natural phenomena, such as, for example, a supernova , or even something much less violent, such as the interaction with the magnetic field of a planet. Whatever their origin, the curious thing is that they can contribute to the acceleration of some particles until they help them reach a speed very close to that of light.

The electrically charged particles that make up the solar wind undergo an acceleration, and therefore an increase in energy, when they interact with the Earth's magnetic field.

To come face to face with this phenomenon, we don't have to go very far. The electrically charged particles that make up the solar wind (protons, electrons and alpha particles) undergo an acceleration, and, therefore, an increase in energy , when they interact with the Earth's magnetic field. However, this phenomenon is more complex than it seems because there are other mechanisms that can also intervene in this increase in energy.

Cosmic radiation: what is it, where does it come from and what protects us from it In xiaomist.com Cosmic radiation: what is it, where does it come from and what protects us from it

One of them is the relatively abrupt transition that takes place between an essentially empty and cold environment such as space, and another much denser and warmer, such as the atmosphere of our planet. In a way it seems counterintuitive that a particle can undergo an increase in energy as a result of moving from an empty medium to a denser one, but scientists believe that this acceleration is the result of the abrupt transition from one medium to another. Precisely this pressure change acts as a shock wave capable of deflecting and accelerating the particles.

A small paragraph before moving on. In reality, the vacuum of space is a false vacuum . This discussion is beyond the scope of this article, but if you are interested in investigating this false void, we can do so in another report. However, if you are curious, you may want to take a look at the text in which we talk about the possibility that the universe originated from the quantum vacuum .

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This is how scientists have recreated this phenomenon in the laboratory

A research group that brings together scientists who carry out their teaching activities in French, Italian, Russian, Canadian, Czech and Romanian universities has published a very interesting article in Nature Physics in which it explains in detail how it has managed to recreate in the laboratory, at a small scale, of course, the interaction that occurs when subatomic particles are exposed to a shock wave of a cosmic nature.

The experiment carried out by these researchers has achieved that the protons of a gas acquire a maximum energy of 80,000 eV

The idea is relatively simple. What they have done is to use a high-power laser to abruptly and very intensely heat a gas, transforming it into plasma. Then this extremely hot gas has been injected into a hydrogen cloud, so that the interaction of the particles of both gases results in the appearance of a shock wave. In doing so, the protons in the colder gas have undergone an acceleration, acquiring a maximum energy of 80,000 eV (electron volts). This is not a unit of energy that we are used to handling, but it is good for us to know that it is a lot of energy.

This experiment cannot be considered definitive because it is not enough to fully understand the mechanisms that explain how subatomic particles acquire more energy when they travel through the cosmos. But at least it's helping scientists better understand some of those mechanisms. There is no doubt that this is an important advance. Now what we have to do is the same as always: continue investigating to hunt down other phenomena that perhaps also contribute their bit to the mysterious push suffered by some of the particles that travel through the universe.

Cover Image | POT

More information | Nature Physics

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The news Cosmic shock waves score points as responsible for the subatomic particles to acquire more energy was originally published in xiaomist.com by Juan Carlos López .

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