A star system containing two gigantic suns is blasting cosmic rays into space and NASA scientists have found that the radiation is making its way towards Earth on intergalactic winds.
High-energy observations in the sprawling southern constellation of Carina had puzzled scientists for some time. But now a NASA orbital telescope has helped pin the energy source on Eta Carinae, a double-star system around 7,500 light years away from Earth.
It is already known that rays with energies greater than 1 billion electron volts are sprayed into our solar system. However, the erratic movement of the energy and sheer size of the great expanse previously made it difficult to locate some of the sources. Colliding stellar winds within Eta Carinae, which is surrounded by an hourglass dust nebula, have now been confirmed as a reason for the energy patterns in the region.
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“We know the blast waves of exploded stars can accelerate cosmic rays to speeds comparable to that of light, an incredible energy boost,” said NASA astrophysicist Kenji Hamaguchi. “Similar processes must occur in other extreme environments. Our analysis indicates Eta Carinae is one of them.”
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