Mar Carretero, an astrophysicist’s cabin studying the most powerful energies in the Universe.

There are many natural phenomena that make a person look at the sky. A few days ago an unusual episode occurred. auroras It conquered the population of the Canary Islands (as well as the rest of Spain). For the first time, mobile phones and digital cameras in our hands were able to replicate how geomagnetic storm It painted the sky over the islands in reddish colors. However, only a group of privileged experts were able to see it from one of the most important astronomical observation centers in Europe.

Mar Carretero Castrillo is an astrophysicist who breeds rabbits and is studying a PhD in high energy at the University of Barcelona. During the recent aurora episode in the Carretero Islands, he worked on research at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory in La Palma and was able to capture how the auroras reflected from the MAGIC telescopes.

These telescopes are part of a collaboration between countries including Spain, Italy, Germany, Japan and Brazil. “The telescopes are staffed by scientists from all these countries, and every month a group of four people go out to observe at the telescopes,” he says.

This year, Mar Carretero is in charge of guiding and supervising the operators who arrive at the La Palma telescopes for the first time. At the same time, he continues to engage in research work independently.

In physics, there are different types of radiation known as electromagnetic waves, although not all of them are of the same type and intensity. For example, “we have the typical light that we can all see, but there are others, such as radio waves, microwaves, which we use to heat food, or X-rays, when we take X-rays,” he explains. . In all areas of astrophysics, his activities are devoted to the study of “the most energetic phenomena in the Universe”, measured in gamma radiation.

This is where your research comes in handy. Compared to other types of specializations in astrophysics, their work involves analyzing black holes in the Universe and, in particular, studying “high energy binary systems“, where a star much larger than the Sun is next to a black hole, orbiting one next to the other. These “phenomena are more violent because the black hole eats nearby material and produces explosions that produce these gamma rays.” “

At the moment, the Canarian astrophysicist explains that only nine high-energy binary systems have been discovered in our galaxy and in the Universe as a whole. “There are very few of them, given the size of the galaxy,” he says. His research aims to find more systems of this type, analyze their behavior and find out why they generate such high energies that They cannot be created on Earth..

“The question is, what is it about these objects that can create such powerful, strong energy? Something happens that accelerates the particles to very high speeds and emits gamma ray energy. Essentially, it is understanding how “these objects move and behave.” what happens there, how these high energies are created,” their research describes in detail.

The work of this astrophysicist from Lanzarote has been received favorably. He has already published a scientific article on this issue, and is also about to send a second report. A good reception in the scientific world has already allowed him to hold more than a dozen conferences in Barcelona, ​​Germany, Chile, several in the Canary Islands, France and Argentina.

Among the awards he has received is recognition International Astronomical Unionthe world’s most important astronomical organization, which invited it to host a conference this summer during the celebration event in Cape Town (South Africa).

Canary Islands, epicenter of space observations

Every year Mar Carretero spends from 15 days to a month on La Palma, the astrophysicist completely changes his daily routine and moves to the highest point of the Canary Islands, at an altitude of 2396 meters above sea level. From here he spends the nights from sunset until the sun rises again, exploring areas of space and making observations.

During this time, he has a calendar, which indicates the order of points to look at at different hours of the night. “During this time, you need to observe this galaxy, and then you focus on another object, such as a star that has a black hole next to it, or a supernova, which is an exploding star.” , basic moments.

He then moves on to the University of Barcelona, ​​where he analyzes and studies the results.

The Canary Islands are one of the best places in the world to observe the sky, as the islands are concentrated in different conditions that make this possible. The La Palma Observatory joins “Tenerife, Chile, Hawaii and South Africa as the best observing spots on the planet.”

Among them, the height of islands such as Tenerife or La Palma, the bright skies of La Palma, given the absence of large cities and the possibility that the sea of ​​clouds leaves phenomena such as storms at lower levels, makes this a privilege to place.

An unusual episode of auroras in the Canary Islands

The extraordinary phenomenon of the northern lights in the Canary Islands, photographed by Mar Carretero, was caused by a solar storm. “Particles from the Sun are sometimes ejected by solar storms, and if the Earth is aligned with the Sun when this eruption occurs, they reach the Earth and interact with the Earth’s magnetic field to create these auroras,” says astrophysicist Hatcha.

In this regard, he explains that “usually these phenomena occur in the high latitudes of the Earth, that is, in the north and south of the planet, because there the magnetic field is more intense and is closer to the surface.”

For the formation of auroras in the Canary Islands, located closer to the Earth’s equator than to the north pole, “the solar storm that occurred was very intense, much larger than usual.”

In the case of the Canary Islands, the lights that could be seen were red. “In the Canary Islands, it was mostly the particles from the sun that interact to create these colors that interacted with oxygen at higher altitudes,” he says, while in other places this interaction happened closer to the ground.

Solar storms peak every eleven years, coinciding with this period in 2024-2025. These storms can cause not only the northern lights, but also disruptions satellites and radio communications. However, this time it turned out to be stronger than in previous periods.

At this moment, a scientist from Lanzarote managed to photograph this phenomenon behind the Milky Way telescope on her mobile phone.

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