back to article It's over 9,000! Boffin-baffling microquasar has power that makes the LHC look like a kid's toy

The first microquasar us Earthlings have detected has left astrophysicists puzzled. Microquasars are greedy black holes that gobble up material from stars hovering nearby and shoot out powerful gamma ray beams. One particular specimen, codenamed SS 433, emits two jets that have energies measuring at least 25 trillion electron …

  1. I sound like Peter Griffin!!

    "..Let's jet physical, physical!!!..."

    Alright alright alright I'll leave - geeeeez!

  2. el kabong

    25 TeV vs 14 TeV

    That's not much of a difference, I'd say the LHC holds its own quite well, the LHC is a mere human made contraption after all.

    That said, it's about the kinetic energy of 25 flying mosquitoes going against 14 flying mosquitoes.

    It doesn't impress me!!!

    1. asdf Silver badge

      Re: 25 TeV vs 14 TeV

      How about 300 EeV? A cosmic ray particle with the kinetic energy on par with a decently pitched cricket ball.

      1. Graham Cunningham

        Re: 25 TeV vs 14 TeV

        Sorry for downvote, but this is the wrong usage of "pitched" with respect to a cricket ball ;)

    2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: 25 TeV vs 14 TeV

      "That's not much of a difference"

      The hundreds of TeV at the source is the main jump.

      "LHC is a mere human made contraption"

      It's just there for reference as the world's largest/most power particle accelerator.

      C.

      1. el kabong

        The "doesn't impress me" part was intended as a joke

        Comparing the energies of the microquasar's gamma rays to the kinetic energy of a flying mosquito was also intended as a joke.

        What really matters here is the density of energy, and it is really enormous. For comparison, a blue light photon carries an energy between 2.50 and 2.75 eV while for the microquasar's gamma rays each photon carries around 25 TeVs, that's not twelve but THIRTEEN orders of magnitude above.

        All that energy concentrated in such a tiny particle. That's really impressive!!!

      2. JimC Silver badge

        Re:nitpicking/reference

        Look at it this way, every time a pedantic nitpicker finds something to criticise then you've made his/her day a happier one...

        1. Giovani Tapini

          Re: Re:nitpicking/reference

          There are many pedants in the forums, the better ones explain themselves along with their downvote.

          There is a great variety of expertise in far wider fields than just IT here and its always good to learn new angles on the discussions though.

          So a qualified hooray to the pedants.

      3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: 25 TeV vs 14 TeV

        It is accelerating electrons not protons like the LHC. Confusingly it is way harder to accelerate light particles to high energies than heavier ones.

        There are individual cosmic ray particles (probably) from other galaxies that have been detected at billions of time the LHC energy. We just don't know how or where - what's cool about this is that it is a nearby continuous source we can study

        1. Michael Habel Silver badge

          Re: 25 TeV vs 14 TeV

          Isn't that kinda to be expected though? If I understand it all correctly a massless Photon is already humming along at something infinity closer to C (e.g. The speed of Light in a vacuum), whereas your heavier elements (or Particles), can me made to go a bit faster, but will inevitably never actually hit C no matter what.

      4. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: 25 TeV vs 14 TeV

        It's fricking 15000 light years away and they're measuring particles for fucks sake, and the beam isn't even pointing our way. Cut them some slack, LHC had the luxury of being able to put the detectors right next to the beams.

    3. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: 25 TeV vs 14 TeV

      "That's not much of a difference, I'd say the LHC holds its own quite well"

      Just to clarify, since I don't think the article really made it clear, the comparison is not 25 to 14 TeV. 14TeV is the collision energy of the particle beams in the LHC (the actual particles only have 7 TeV, the total comes from colliding them head-first). The 25 TeV in the article is the energy of gamma rays (ie. photons) produced by particles which themselves have much higher energy. The paper suggests an absolute minimum particle energy of 130 TeV to produce those photons; in reality it will of course be much more than that, and given a likely gaussian spread even if some are near the minimum the maximum energies are probably at least an order of magnitude or two higher.

      For comparison, a synchrotron light source is an accelerator which works on the same principles as the LHC (which is also a synchrotron), but is dedicated to producing photons. A light source using 3 GeV (ie. 10^9) electrons will produce photons up to around 50 keV - five orders of magnitude lower than that of the particles themselves. Basically, if you see photons of a given energy, whatever produced them was almost certainly a hell of a lot more energetic. The minimums given in the paper make the LHC look like a toy, the possible maximums make it look like an insignificant speck.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 25 TeV vs 14 TeV

      "That said, it's about the kinetic energy of 25 flying mosquitoes going against 14 flying mosquitoes"

      True, but that is per particle; the accelerator is sending packets of myriad particles around the ring.

      Interesting side note - there is a lead buffer on an offshoot of the LHC that is designed to take the full whack of everything currently in the ring - the total energy of all the particles that would be transferred to it is estimated to be similar to that delivered by a cruise ship doing 10 knots...

    5. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: 25 TeV vs 14 TeV

      @El kabong, please. If scientists the world over are impressed, they tend to be impressed for a reason. The LHC is the most powerful particle accelerator on the planet (although it accelerates protons, not electrons), and it works by *smashing* things together. The 14 TeV are actually 2 x 7 TeV in opposite/oblique directions.

      The most powerful electron accelerator on the planet currently *only* does 17.5 GeV (in one direction), and it only emits a monochromatic X-ray class beam of radiation of 25 keV. To emit a beam that has energies of 25 TeV or more... add energies inside the quasar by another order or three (or four... you get the drift) of magnitude.

      Find me a man-made toy that emits a radiation beam of 25 TeV before speaking again about 14 mosquitos vs 25 mosquitos.

  3. adnim Silver badge
    Holmes

    LHC = 27Km circle

    Microquasar = region surrounding a black hole.

    Colour me surprised... Nature is more kick ass than humankind

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: LHC = 27Km circle

      It's just for reference. It's like saying Jupiter is a gas giant: it can fit 1,300 Earths.

      Y'know. Sense of scale. You people are never happy.

      C.

      1. frank ly Silver badge
        Happy

        @diodesign Re: LHC = 27Km circle

        We're always happy, especially when we're picking (black) holes in articles.

      2. Geoff May (no relation)

        "You people are never happy"

        I think you will find the vast majority of your readers are more often happy than unhappy and I suspect that extends to the commentarts too.

        Keep up the good work.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "You people are never happy"

          I think you will find the vast majority of your readers are more often happy than unhappy and I suspect that extends to the commentarts too.

          Until someone mentions Brexit.

          Oops.

          1. DavCrav Silver badge

            Re: "You people are never happy"

            "Until someone mentions Brexit.

            Oops."

            You mentioned it once but I think you got away with it.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "You people are never happy"

              "It's just for reference. It's like saying Jupiter is a gas giant: it can fit 1,300 Earths."

              "How many Olympic Sized swimming pools is that?"

              "Until someone mentions Brexit."

              How many Brexit red buses is that? (ducks)

              Good article and seriously cool that they can measure that.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: "You people are never happy"

                To be fair, brexit red busses can't be used here, they're only useful for quantum state measurements as they both exist (as a statement of fact) and don't exist depending on your grasp of reality...

          2. Michael Habel Silver badge
            Mushroom

            Re: "You people are never happy"

            You mean mentions any support in favor of Brexit...

            Ol well I needed some fresh down votes anyway.

      3. Adam 1 Silver badge

        Re: LHC = 27Km circle

        > It's just for reference. It's like saying Jupiter is a gas giant: it can fit 1,300 Earths.

        How many Olympic Sized swimming pools is that?

        1. Kane Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: LHC = 27Km circle

          "How many Olympic Sized swimming pools is that?"

          570,051,048,032,818,000,000

          I think...

        2. I&I

          Re: LHC = 27Km circle

          Power output in Kettles ?

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Go

            Re: LHC = 27Km circle

            Power output in Kettles ?

            CERN uses 1.3 terawatt hours of electricity annually [ ... ] At peak consumption, usually from May to mid-December, CERN uses about 200 megawatts of power

            So that's 100.000 kettles at 2kW each, all of them running for 6500 hours. At roughly 100 seconds to heat a liter from 15C to boiling in such a kettle each of them would make 234.000 liters of tea, or a bit over half a million mugs over those 6500 hours.

        3. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: LHC = 27Km circle

          Volume of the Earth: 1 trillion cubic kilometer, according to space.com. So:

          $ units

          Currency exchange rates from www.timegenie.com on 2016-06-21

          2954 units, 109 prefixes, 88 nonlinear units

          You have: 1300e12 km^3

          You want: olympicpool

          * 5.194042e+20

      4. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Sense of scale.

        So, how about renaming the LHC to Cosmically Puny Hadron Collider?

    2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: LHC = 27Km circle

      Perhaps it's two small black holes that are squeezing out electrons like tiddlywinks?

  4. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

    PINGAMMA

    I want one of those HERMES things in space, outside the bow-shock with a microphone. #vacuumphone

    1. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

      Re: PINGAMMA

      L4 if that's the one in front, with a chemical signature and lasers. #bitcoinforwater #perfectpangram

      1. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

        Re: PINGAMMA

        #electronbitflipattack

        1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Hermes in space

          It'll never deliver.

  5. Michael Hoffmann
    Joke

    Poor Alderaan

    ... there it went boom!

    1. StuntMisanthrope Bronze badge

      Re: Poor Alderaan

      With a nD infinity value. Like an infinite falling corkscrew or the opposite ergo surface matter. #trappistbeer ∂:-)

  6. Louis Schreurs BEng

    clickbait

    I can be wrong, it's a morning after an evening of satisfying potsmoking, but the thing has roughly 2 times the power of the LHC. At first I thought it was an American reporter bashing on a contraception located in Europe. But no.

    A kid's toy has the power of a grown-up's toy orders of magnitude smaller. Not half the power.

    What a kid's idea of a title for this in essence rather interesting article. Also the usual sarcastic title-appropriation on The Reg isn't applicable to me. What a bummer.

  7. Mark 85 Silver badge

    SS 433 is roughly 15,000 light years away, and its jets don’t point directly to Earth, making it difficult to study.

    Might that not be a good thing that it's not pointing directly at Earth?

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge
      Alien

      Depends on who is directing it and whether it's fitted with a collimator or a modulator.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
        Mushroom

        > or a modulator.

        Especially an illudium Q36 one.

        1. Giovani Tapini

          Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator

          is only required if earth obscures the view of Venus from Mars I believe.

      2. anothercynic Silver badge

        @Rich 11

        And they said accelerator engineers and beamline scientists don't have a sense of humour... ;-)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds more like a Bennett pinch.

  9. Mage Silver badge
    Alien

    Good News!

    "SS 433 is roughly 15,000 light years away, and its jets don’t point directly to Earth, making it difficult to study."

    It wouldn't be nice if it was 15 LY away and slowly rotating the axis toward us?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good News!

      > "It wouldn't be nice if it was 15 LY away and slowly rotating the axis toward us?"

      Actually it would be the galaxy rotating US towards ITS axis, but still just as ominous.

  10. el kabong

    A blue light photon carries an energy between 2.50 and 2.75 eV

    Each photon coming form the microquasar carries around 25 TeVs, that's not twelve but THIRTEEN orders of magnitude above. That microquasar produces really powerful gamma rays.

    This is to make things clear, as some failed to recognize my mosquito remark above as being an attempt at a joke.

    P.S. The LHC is not that shabby either.

  11. Dr. G. Freeman

    Wish we could hurry up and invent a FTL drive.

    I want to go play with that microquaser.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Be careful though, microquasars always play for keeps, and you don't get to argue.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        If someone wants to use it like a weapon, just remember that changing the plane of rotation of a spinning stellar black hole would require throwing a small star at it, at the correct angle and velocity. If one can do that, why bother with black holes?

        1. Giovani Tapini

          That is

          the American way

          ...

        2. DropBear Silver badge
          Trollface

          "If one can do that, why bother with black holes?"

          Well, for one, because they shoot the nasty stuff at the speed of light - have you got any idea how much more effort it takes to accelerate a small star to anywhere near the speed of light instead?!?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Okay, but would you rather be hit by a stream of gamma rays or a star?

  12. Tom 7 Silver badge

    25TeV? Thats nothing!

    Those of use who remember nylon sheets know this to be insignificant compared with the voltage generated by a couple wrestling in a bed adorned with satans satin. An electron from one of those can hurl the human body across a room if it impinges on the nether regions!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 25TeV? Thats nothing!

      You're lucky nobody farted.

  13. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

    There's a big assumption here.

    Knowing physicists and their desire for bigger and better accelerators, I'm really glad that we are 15000 light years away from what might just be "So, if we want a really bright source, how about feeding some stuff at just the right angle into a black hole?"

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: There's a big assumption here.

      "So, if we want a really bright source, how about feeding some stuff at just the right angle into a black hole?"

      Personally I think that sounds more like a chemist than a physicist, but there's the personal prejudices showing up.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doom BFG?

    So is this thing like the BFG in Doom, but bigger?

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Doom BFG?

      iddqd

  15. aregross

    Don't blink!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Alternative_Factor

  16. SeanEllis

    Another thing...

    The LHC is exquisitely tuned for the one purpose of accelerating protons. This is a natural formation that happens to accelerate particles to higher energies than that, just as a side-effect of what it's doing.

    The fact that this happens at all should be amazing, regardless of the relative output energies.

  17. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Great news!

    So the amount of free energy available in those beams are absolutely enormous. And available 24/7/365.

    There must therefore surely be a few £million in government funding available to research ways of harnessing it. Doesn't have to be at all practical, the government just needs to be able to boast about how much it's doing to address climate change.

  18. Geralds-for-himself

    Pulsed vrs continuous

    So the LHC can push protons to 14 Tev, the total energy in a beam is significant.

    Using data from CERN:

    2808 bunches of protons * 1.2 x 10^11 protons * 6.5 Tev / proton ~= 3.78 10^9 joules

    I know we say 14 Tev, that would up the energy to ~7.5 10^9 joules

    Pardon my crude calculations....

    I bet the quasar is outputting more than that per day...

    I would say the total energy, were it directed directly at Earth might cause some problems

  19. Mike Richards Silver badge

    I can't believe no one has asked this vital scientific question

    Can that much radiation cause superpowers?

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