News & Opinion | July 15, 2018 5:00 am

Scientists Tracked a Neutrino From a Far-Off Galaxy for the First Time

This discovery marks a new era in neutrino astronomy.

Blazar emission with neutrino reaches IceCube (YouTube)

When planet Earth was still young, so about four billion years ago, the axis of a black hole about one billion times bigger than the sun happened to be pointing right to where our planet happened to be going on September 22, 2017. Along the axis, a high-energy jet of particles sent photons and neutrinos heading in our direction at or near the speed of light, explains The Conversation. And for the first time, the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole detected one of these subatomic particles and tracked it back to a small patch in of sky and pinpointed the cosmic source: a flaring black hole the size of a billion suns, located 3.7 billion light years from Earth.

The black hole is known as a blazer, and though we have known about them for some time, it was not known that they could produce high-energy neutrinos. Even more exciting, reports The Conversation, is that neutrinos had never before been traced back to their source. This discovery marks a new era of neutrino astronomy.