In a 300-square-mile (777 square kilometers) patch of desert west of Delta, Utah, hundreds of astronomical eyes have spent the last five years watching the heavens, looking for supercharged particles from deep in space.
The $25 million Telescope Array cosmic ray observatory was built to detect these high-energy visitors, known as cosmic rays, whose origin remains a mystery. The observatory is a joint venture of researchers from the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City, and from Japan, and is the largest such detector in the Northern Hemisphere.
The Telescope Array recently detected a cosmic ray hotspot in a region of the sky just beneath the Big Dipper. Researchers are unsure what could be producing such a disproportionate amount of the energetic radiation, but the discovery could help scientists understand how ultrahigh-energy particles in the universe are formed.