New discoveries are made every day about the world we live in, but there are still many aspects of the universe that we don’t understand, and maybe we never will. Once upon a time, scientists felt this way about antimatter, but now, with thanks to new research carried out by a team of astronomers, that may be about to change.
Antimatter is the matter that has a reversed electrical charge and when both of these meet, they release a burst of energy that destroys one another. Around 40 years ago, Gamma rays were first detected by scientists. What this suggested was that as many as 1043 positrons were being destroyed every second in the Milky Way. But while they belied most of these were concentrated in the central area of the galaxy, that didn’t make sense as this area represents less than half of the total mass of the galaxy.
But, that mystery may have just been solved and it’s actually much simpler than you’d think. “You don’t need anything exotic like dark matter to explain the positrons,” explained Roland Crocker, a particle astrophysicist at the Australian National University. His team’s research suggests that positrons may have developed from just one kind of supernova and is explained in more detail in the journal Nature Astronomy.
Their research suggests that dim supernovas could be the answer that they were looking for in that these could have created all of those unexplained positrons. These supernovas are known as SN 1991bg-like and are the result of the merging of two dwarf white stars. As they merge they create large amounts of radioactive isotopes known as titanium-44, and it’s these that release the positrons being destroyed. These supernovas only tend to appear in galaxies with stars that are around 3 billion to 6 billion years old, hence why ours has a few.
Of course, there is another theory that provides a solution to this age-old mystery. Crocker advises, “The most recent data show that there’s a positron source connected to the very center of the galaxy. In our model, this is explained as due to the old stars distributed on roughly 200-parsec [650 light years] scales around the galaxy’s supermassive black hole, but the black hole itself is an interesting alternative source.” So, what do you think?
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