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Wednesday 15 February 2017

The Universe in 101 words: The 'Oh-My-God' Particle

It's possible the particle came from the kind of exotic objects that lurk in vast nebula, like this one.

Can anything made of matter reach lightspeed? The 'oh-my-god' particle came damn close: A subatomic particle that struck Utah in 1991, it stunned the physicists at the University of Utah's cosmic ray observatory - it was travelling so close to lightspeed that light would only have gained a 1 cm lead in 200,000 years. 

No-one knows how it got such incredible speed, but it must have had a strange trip: So close to lightspeed time slows to a crawl and distances contract - the Universe would seem squashed along the direction of travel, and its whole history would pass in days. 

Above: Such energetic particles can cause cancer in astronauts.

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