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Ugly duckling redux.

Ugly ducklings redux

Cygnet is the name given to a strange, highly energetic formof radiation that seems to come from a source in the constellation Cygnus. These cygnets have become the ugly ducklings of underground astronomy as controversy rages over their existence. A newly analyzed, positive result from a sub-atomic-particle detector under Lake Erie, which neither confirms nor denies previous sightings, is adding to the debate.

Subterranean astronomy is done with large detectors locateddeep underground to shield them from ambient radiation. A few years ago the detector in the Soudan mine in northern Minnesota indicated that strange, highly energetic, electrically neutral particles seem to come from Cygnus (SN: 10/12/85, p.231). The observation was supported by the NUSEX detector, located under Mont Blanc on the French-Swiss border. But the finding is emphatically contradicted by other detectors, particularly the one called Frejus in a tunnel under the French-Italian border.

The controversy is complicated by questions of timing andthe possible variability of the presumed source of cygnets, the X-ray source Cygnus X-3. Cygnus X-3 seems to undergo a strong outburst every autumn, and observers had awaited the 1986 outburst as an opportunity to settle the question. But the outburst didn't happen.

Meanwhile, the managers of the detector called IMB, locatedunder Lake Erie at Fairfax, Ohio, have analyzed data from the 1983 outburst, when the whole business began. They have found a statistically significant observation. However, according to John Learned of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, its timing does not directly confirm the Soudan-NUSEX result.

If they are real, cygnets are something entirely unknown toparticle physics. According to Keith Ruddick of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, scientists might soon produce them in the collisions of protons and antiprotons at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill.
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Title Annotation:radiation from constellation Cygnus
Author:Thomsen, Dietrick E.
Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 3, 1987
Words:298
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