Letter

Nature 439, 695-698 (9 February 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04467

Discovery of very-high-energy big gamma-rays from the Galactic Centre ridge

F. Aharonian1, A. G. Akhperjanian2, A. R. Bazer-Bachi3, M. Beilicke4, W. Benbow1, D. Berge1, K. Bernlöhr1,5, C. Boisson6, O. Bolz1, V. Borrel3, I. Braun1, F. Breitling5, A. M. Brown7, P. M. Chadwick7, L.-M. Chounet8, R. Cornils4, L. Costamante1,20, B. Degrange8, H. J. Dickinson7, A. Djannati-Ataï9, L. O'C. Drury10, G. Dubus8, D. Emmanoulopoulos11, P. Espigat9, F. Feinstein12, G. Fontaine8, Y. Fuchs13, S. Funk1, Y. A. Gallant12, B. Giebels8, S. Gillessen1, J. F. Glicenstein14, P. Goret14, C. Hadjichristidis7, D. Hauser1, M. Hauser11, G. Heinzelmann4, G. Henri13, G. Hermann1, J. A. Hinton1, W. Hofmann1, M. Holleran15, D. Horns1, A. Jacholkowska12, O. C. de Jager15, B. Khélifi1, S. Klages1, Nu. Komin5, A. Konopelko5, I. J. Latham7, R. Le Gallou7, A. Lemière9, M. Lemoine-Goumard8, N. Leroy8, T. Lohse5, A. Marcowith3, J. M. Martin6, O. Martineau-Huynh16, C. Masterson1,20, T. J. L. McComb7, M. de Naurois16, S. J. Nolan7, A. Noutsos7, K. J. Orford7, J. L. Osborne7, M. Ouchrif16,20, M. Panter1, G. Pelletier13, S. Pita9, G. Pühlhofer11, M. Punch9, B. C. Raubenheimer15, M. Raue4, J. Raux16, S. M. Rayner7, A. Reimer17, O. Reimer17, J. Ripken4, L. Rob18, L. Rolland16, G. Rowell1, V. Sahakian2, L. Saugé13, S. Schlenker5, R. Schlickeiser17, C. Schuster17, U. Schwanke5, M. Siewert17, H. Sol6, D. Spangler7, R. Steenkamp19, C. Stegmann5, J.-P. Tavernet16, R. Terrier9, C. G. Théoret9, M. Tluczykont8,20, C. van Eldik1, G. Vasileiadis12, C. Venter15, P. Vincent16, H. J. Völk1 and S. J. Wagner11

The source of Galactic cosmic rays (with energies up to 1015 eV) remains unclear, although it is widely believed that they originate in the shock waves of expanding supernova remnants1, 2. At present the best way to investigate their acceleration and propagation is by observing the gamma-rays produced when cosmic rays interact with interstellar gas3. Here we report observations of an extended region of very-high-energy (> 1011 eV) gamma-ray emission correlated spatially with a complex of giant molecular clouds in the central 200 parsecs of the Milky Way. The hardness of the gamma-ray spectrum and the conditions in those molecular clouds indicate that the cosmic rays giving rise to the gamma-rays are likely to be protons and nuclei rather than electrons. The energy associated with the cosmic rays could have come from a single supernova explosion around 104 years ago.

  1. Max-Planck Institut für Kernphysik, PO Box 103980, D 69029 Heidelberg, Germany
  2. Yerevan Physics Institute, 2 Alikhanian Brothers St., 375036 Yerevan, Armenia
  3. Centre d'Etude Spatiale des Rayonnements, CNRS/UPS, 9 av. du Colonel Roche, BP 4346, F-31029 Toulouse Cedex 4, France
  4. Universität Hamburg, Institut für Experimentalphysik, Luruper Chaussee 149, D 22761 Hamburg, Germany
  5. Institut für Physik, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Newtonstr. 15, D 12489 Berlin, Germany
  6. LUTH, UMR 8102 du CNRS, Observatoire de Paris, Section de Meudon, F-92195 Meudon Cedex, France
  7. University of Durham, Department of Physics, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE, UK
  8. Laboratoire Leprince-Ringuet, IN2P3/CNRS, Ecole Polytechnique, F-91128 Palaiseau, France
  9. APC, 11 Place Marcelin Berthelot, F-75231 Paris Cedex 05, France (UMR 7164-CNRS, Université Paris VII, CEA, Observatoire de Paris)
  10. Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 5 Merrion Square, Dublin 2, Ireland
  11. Landessternwarte, Königstuhl, D 69117 Heidelberg, Germany
  12. Laboratoire de Physique Théorique et Astroparticules, IN2P3/CNRS, Université Montpellier II, CC 70, Place Eugéne Bataillon, F-34095 Montpellier Cedex 5, France
  13. Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Grenoble, INSU/CNRS, Université Joseph Fourier, BP 53, F-38041 Grenoble Cedex 9, France
  14. DAPNIA/DSM/CEA, CE Saclay, F-91191 Gif-sur-Yvette, Cedex, France
  15. Unit for Space Physics, North-West University, Potchefstroom 2520, South Africa
  16. Laboratoire de Physique Nucléaire et de Hautes Energies, IN2P3/CNRS, Universités Paris VI & VII, 4 Place Jussieu, F-75252 Paris Cedex 5, France
  17. Institut für Theoretische Physik, Lehrstuhl IV: Weltraum und Astrophysik, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, D 44780 Bochum, Germany
  18. Institute of Particle and Nuclear Physics, Charles University, V Holesovickach 2, 180 00 Prague 8, Czech Republic
  19. University of Namibia, Private Bag 13301, Windhoek, Namibia
  20. European Associated Laboratory for Gamma-Ray Astronomy

Correspondence to: J. A. Hinton1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to J.A.H. (Email: jim.hinton@mpi-hd.mpg.de).

Received 13 July 2005; Accepted 22 November 2005

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