Cosmic rays with even higher energies have since been observed, among them the Oh-My-God particle (a play on the nickname "God particle" for the Higgs boson), observed on the evening of October 15, 1991, over Dugway Proving Grounds, Utah. Its observation was a shock to astrophysicists, who estimated its energy to be approximately 3 × 1020 electronvolts (50 joules)— in other words, a subatomic particle with macroscopic kinetic energy equal to that of a baseball (142 g) thrown at 96 km/h (60 mph).
It was most likely a proton with a velocity almost equal to the speed of light. To a static observer, such a proton, traveling at [1 − (5×10−24)] times c, would fall only 46 nanometers behind a photon after one year.
Since the first observation, by the University of Utah's Fly's Eye Cosmic Ray Detector, at least fifteen similar events have been recorded, confirming the phenomenon. These very high energy cosmic rays are however very rare and most cosmic rays possess an energy between 107 eV and 1010 eV.
Because of its energy, the Oh-My-God particle would have experienced very little influence from cosmic electromagnetic and gravitational fields, and so its trajectory should be easily calculable. However, nothing of note was found in the estimated direction of its origin.
In November 2007, the Pierre Auger Observatory announced that they had found a correlation between the 27 highest energy events thus far detected, and nearby active galactic nuclei [AGN] and that the rapid decrease in the number of events at highest energy is consistent with the GZK process. This goes even farther towards confirming the GZK cutoff.
Additional data collection is expected to obtain even stronger verification of the AGN source for these highest energy particles, which are believed to be protons accelerated to those energies by magnetic fields associated with the rapidly growing black holes at the AGN centers. According to a recent study , short-duration AGN flares resulting from the tidal disruption of a star or from a disk instability can be the main source of the observed flux of super GZK cosmic rays.
Near an active galactic nucleus, one of these particles can fall into the black hole, while the other escapes, as described by the Penrose process. Some of the particles that escape will collide with incoming particles creating collisions of very high energy. It is in these collisions, according to Pavlov, that ordinary visible protons can form. These protons will have very high energies.
According to Pavlov evidence is present in the form of ultra high-energy cosmic rays.
A larger cosmic ray detector array is also planned for the northern hemisphere as part of the Pierre Auger complex.
The Pierre Auger Observatory, in addition to obtaining directional information from the cluster of water tanks used to observe the cosmic ray shower components, also has four telescopes trained on the night sky to observe fluorescence of the Nitrogen molecules as the shower particles traverse the sky, giving further directional information on the original cosmic ray.
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