The key observations were made at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at a US scientific research station at the South Pole and then confirmed by land-based and orbiting telescopes.
Following a news conference on Thursday morning, an global team of researchers stated that they might have uncovered the source of some of the highest-energy cosmic rays, which would be a blazar.
As charged particles, cosmic rays can not be traced straight back to their source because strong magnetic fields in space alter their trajectory. "The observation of a neutrino, which is a hallmark of proton interactions, is the first definitive evidence of proton acceleration by black holes".
Detecting the highest energy neutrinos requires a massive particle detector, and IceCube fits the bill. But neutrinos have little or no mass, travel at almost the speed of light, are not electrically charged and rarely interact with normal matter.
"The era of multi-messenger astrophysics is here", said NSF Director France Córdova. The object, known colloquially as TXS 0506+056, was something called a blazar approximately 4 billion light-years from Earth.
Using IceCube, the scientists backtracked to locate the patch of sky where the neutrino came from, and sent out an alert to observatories around the world to search the spot for flares and outbursts of energy and light that might have accompanied it. Observations were performed across the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to gamma rays. Its 3D grid of sensors embedded in the ice detected the neutrino when it smashed into the nucleus of a water molecule. The source identification paper also includes important follow-up observations by the Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov Telescopes and additional data from NASA's Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and many other facilities.
Jamie Yang Savannah Guthrie IceCube NSF The July 2018 cover of Science features neutrinos
In a breakthrough in astronomy, researchers were able to trace the cosmic source of a mysterious ghost particle which made its way to our planet.
Albert physicist Darren Grant, spokesman for ice cube scientific cooperation, said, "Neutrinos provide us a new window to see the universe".
First, it carried a huge amount of energy - about 20 times as much energy as that generated in the largest man-made particle accelerator ever built.
Cosmic rays are made up mostly of fast-moving protons accelerated to enormous energies, packing up to 100 times the punch of particles studied in the Large Hadron Collider, the world's most powerful atom smasher.
Blazerae astronomers call the supermassive black holes at the centers of distant galaxies, surrounded by a giant cloud of hot gas. "We're witnessing the benefit of combining the talents of astrophysicists and particle physicists, combining not only photon detection but also new messengers such as astrophysical neutrinos, like the one announced in today's discovery".
"Neutrino astronomy offers us a very different view of the universe than we get from other types of telescopes", said Tyce DeYoung, a professor of physics at Michigan State University. "They tell us what's happening deep inside of the source, like a medical X-ray showing us what's inside the human body".
The IceCube team released two papers in Science that cover what their observatory recorded to have happened on September 22 a year ago. But the powerful, naturally occurring cosmic accelerators that produce cosmic rays also produce cosmic neutrinos. They can register tiny flashes of light produced when a neutrino interacts with the transparent ice they are suspended in. Because the charged particle and light it creates stay essentially true to the neutrino's direction, it gives scientists a path to follow back to a source. Now, with IceCube recording the impacts of intergalactic neutrinos, we have a way to feel the cosmos.