Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Messengers from the Extreme Universe

11.11.2005


A unique observatory in a remote location in Argentina is starting to unravel the mysteries of High Energy Cosmic Rays. There is no scientific consensus on the source of these particles which the shower the Earth at energies 10 million times higher than can be produced in particle accelerators! But the Pierre Auger Observatory is shedding new light on these energetic particles from space and using them as messengers to tell us more about the wider Universe.



Scientists of the Pierre Auger Observatory will hold a celebration in Malargüe, Argentina, from 9 November to 11 November 2005, to mark the progress of the Observatory and the presentation of the first physics results.

To witness these extremely rare events, the observatory is constructing an array of 1600 detectors spread over 3000 square kilometres (an area roughly the size of Cambridgeshire in the UK) in Argentina’s Mendoza Province, just east of the Andes Mountains. Each of these “Cherenkov” detectors contains 3000 gallons of water and detects the electromagnetic ‘shock waves’ as the particles pass through. Surrounding the array is a set of 24 telescopes which, on clear moonless nights, observe the ultraviolet fluorescence light produced as cosmic ray shower particles travel through the atmosphere.


"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 Alan Watson of the University of Leeds. "They represent a great opportunity for discoveries."

Watson added: "How does nature create the conditions to accelerate a tiny particle to such an energy? Tracking these ultrahigh-energy particles back to their sources will answer that question."

The observatory has been collecting data since the first parts of the array were completed. The first physics results from the Pierre Auger Observatory include a new cosmic ray spectrum at the highest energies, the results of anisotropy and point source searches, and new limits on the photon content of the primaries that address a number of theories about exotic theories of cosmic ray origin.

The significance of the results:

• The Observatory charts a spectrum by measuring the observed cosmic rays as a function of energy. As the energy of the cosmic rays increases, the experiment is seeing fewer and fewer of them. Auger observes cosmic rays at energies as high as any other experiment has ever seen, if not higher, examining this high energy range for interesting phenomena -- which might or might not exist.

• Cosmic rays generally are charged particles. Lower-energy rays are greatly affected by galactic magnetic fields, taking twisted and distorted paths to earth. High-energy rays, less affected by magnetic fields, take a more direct path to Earth. If experimenters see more rays from one direction than from another (anisotropy), they can refine their observations to include point source searches, tracking back fairly closely to a point source or an object in the sky.

• Scientists want to know the makeup of the primaries, the cosmic ray particles that initially strike the Earth’s atmosphere, creating further collisions with air molecules that eventually produce a cascade of particles called an extensive air shower. Is the primary a proton, an atomic nucleus, or a photon? Researchers have determined experimentally that the makeup of primaries cannot exceed a specific fraction (a limit) of photons, which will eventually affect their thinking on some exotic theories of cosmic ray origins.

• These exotic theories include hypothetical objects left over from the Big Bang, called topological defects, such as "cosmic strings," "domain walls," and "monopoles." If these hypothetical phenomena existed, and then collapsed, their collapses could produce enough energy to create very high-energy cosmic rays. If so, then a certain fraction of cosmic rays would consist of photons. So far, the data is not extensive enough to prove or disprove any of these phenomena. But enlarging the data set over time will help Auger scientists narrow down the many different theories of cosmic ray origin.

"Once more science stands at the threshold of resolving a fundamental question that has so far eluded mankind - the source of high energy cosmic rays,” the Chief Executive of the UK’s Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council [PPARC], Prof. Keith Mason. “And I look forward with great interest to Auger’s quest to unravel one of Nature’s most intriguing mysteries."

Commenting on the experiment’s progress, Prof. Keith Mason added: "The Pierre Auger Observatory is a remarkable example of international collaboration and I am particularly proud that the UK was involved at its inception and that our scientists continue to play a key role in this project."

While a northern hemisphere site has not yet been funded, the collaboration is working to establish a northern hemisphere partner of the southern observatory, likely to be based in southeastern Colorado in the US. With observatories in both hemispheres, the Auger collaboration will have the opportunity to view the entire universe from every direction.

Julia Maddock | alfa
Further information:
http://www.pparc.ac.uk/Nw/auger_celebration.asp

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht MEMS chips get metatlenses
21.02.2018 | American Institute of Physics

nachricht International team publishes roadmap to enhance radioresistance for space colonization
21.02.2018 | Biogerontology Research Foundation

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: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Decoding the structure of the huntingtin protein

22.02.2018 | Life Sciences

Camera technology in vehicles: Low-latency image data compression

22.02.2018 | Information Technology

Minimising risks of transplants

22.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>