Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

World’s Largest Air Shower Array Now On Track Of Super-High-Energy Cosmic Rays

23.10.2003


The Pierre Auger Observatory is located in the Pampa Amarilla, or Yellow Pampa, an area 600 miles west of Buenos Aires, near the town of Malargüe. When complete, 1,600 surface detectors, spaced a mile apart, will cover an area of the size of Rhode Island.


Pierre Auger Observatory seeks source of highest-energy extra-terrestrial particles

With the completion of its hundredth surface detector, the Pierre Auger Observatory, under construction in Argentina, this week became the largest cosmic-ray air shower array in the world. Managed by scientists at the Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the Pierre Auger project so far encompasses a 70-square-mile array of detectors that are tracking the most violent-and perhaps most puzzling- processes in the entire universe.

Cosmic rays are extraterrestrial particles-usually protons or heavier ions-that hit the Earth’s atmosphere and create cascades of secondary particles. While cosmic rays approach the earth at a range of energies, scientists long believed that their energy could not exceed 1020 electron volts, some 100 million times the proton energy achievable in Fermilab’s Tevatron, the most powerful particle accelerator in the world. But recent experiments in Japan and Utah have detected a few such ultrahigh energy cosmic rays, raising questions about what extraordinary events in the universe could have produced them.



"How does nature create the conditions to accelerate a tiny particle to such an energy?" asked Alan Watson, physics professor at the University of Leeds, UK, and spokesperson for the Pierre Auger collaboration of 250 scientists from 14 countries. "Tracking these ultrahigh-energy particles back to their sources will answer that question."

Scientific theory can account for the sources of low- and medium-energy cosmic rays, but the origin of these rare high-energy cosmic rays remains a mystery. To identify the cosmic mechanisms that produce microscopic particles at macroscopic energy, the Pierre Auger collaboration is installing an array that will ultimately comprise 1,600 surface detectors in an area of the Argentine Pampa Amarilla the size of Rhode Island, near the town of Malargüe, about 600 miles west of Buenos Aires. The first 100 detectors are already surveying the southern sky.

"These highest-energy cosmic rays are messengers from the extreme universe," said Nobel Prize winner Jim Cronin, of the University of Chicago, who conceived the Auger experiment together with Watson. "They represent a great opportunity for discoveries."

The highest-energy cosmic rays are extremely rare, hitting the Earth’s atmosphere about once per year per square mile. When complete in 2005, the Pierre Auger observatory will cover approximately 1,200 square miles (3,000 square kilometers), allowing scientists to catch many of these events.

"Our experiment will pick up where the AGASA experiment has left off," said project manager Paul Mantsch, Fermilab, referring to the Akeno Giant Air Shower Array (AGASA) experiment in Japan. "At highest energies, the astonishing results from the two largest cosmic-ray experiments appear to be in conflict. AGASA sees more events than the HiRes experiment in Utah, but the statistics of both experiments are limited."

The Pierre Auger project, named after the pioneering French physicist who first observed extended air showers in 1938, combines the detection methods used in the Japanese and Utah experiments. Surface detectors are spaced one mile apart. Each surface unit consists of a 4-foot-high cylindrical tank filled with 3,000 gallons of pure water, a solar panel, and an antenna for wireless transmission of data. Sensors register the invisible particle avalanches, triggered at an altitude of six to twelve miles just microseconds earlier, as they reach the ground. The particle showers strike several tanks almost simultaneously.

In addition to the tanks, the new observatory will feature 24 HiRes-type fluorescence telescopes that can pick up the faint ultraviolet glow emitted by air showers in mid-air. The fluorescence telescopes, which can only be operated during dark, moonless nights, are sensitive enough to pick up the light emitted by a 4-watt lamp traveling six miles away at almost the speed of light.

"It is a really beautiful thing that we have a hybrid system," said Watson. "We can look at air showers in two modes. We can measure their energy in two independent ways."

Alan Watson | alfa
Further information:
http://www.fnal.gov/pub/presspass/press_releases/auger_photos/index.html
http://www.auger.org/

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Taking a spin on plasma space tornadoes with NASA observations
20.11.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth
17.11.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Antarctic landscape insights keep ice loss forecasts on the radar

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Filling the gap: High-latitude volcanic eruptions also have global impact

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Water world

20.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>