Neutrino is a subatomic particle with a small mass or zero mass. With no electric charge, neutrinos blast across the universe at very high energies. But scientists still have to track down this behaviour of the neutrinos.
Any potential source of energetic neutrinos is known to be a tidal disruption event. When the distance between a star and a supermassive black hole is too less, the gravitational pull of the black hole tends to pull the star apart. Some of the stars spiral toward the black hole, forming a disk of gas known to be accretion disk and blowing outward its small pieces. The detected energetic neutrino is the result of one such violent event.
According to physicists of asXiv.org, a neutrino may have blasted outward when was shredded into pieces during a close encounter with a massive black hole. If this turns out to be true, this will be declared as the first direct evidence of such star shredding event which accelerates the subatomic particles into extreme energies.
A neutrino packed with an energy of 200 trillion electron volts was spotted on 1st October 2019. The neutrino’s signature was detected by a detector frozen deep in the Antarctic ice, IceCube. This detector senses the light illuminated by the neutrino when it comes into contact with ice.
According to a team of physicists, the first time when IceCube detected the neutrino back in 2019, the maelstrom was still raging.
“While intriguing, the association between a shredded star and neutrino is not certain. I don’t know if I have to bet my wallet, but I probably would, but it doesn’t have much money in it,” says IceCube physicists Francis Halzen although he wasn’t involved with the new study.
Astrophysicist Kohta Murase of Penn State University says, “Just one event is difficult to convince [us] this source is really a neutrino emitter.” He is waiting for more data because the probability of such a tidal disruption event by chance is only 0.2 %.
It is crucial to understand the source of such high energy neutrinos.
“This is the only way we can clearly understand how the universe is operating at this extreme energy,” says Fang.