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Pierre Auger Observatory shares cosmic-ray data with public and students

05.07.2007
Scientists of the Pierre Auger Collaboration yesterday (July 3) began the public release of one percent of the cosmic-ray events recorded by the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina. New cosmic-ray data—about 70 events per day—will be posted on a daily basis. The data and their visualizations are available at www.auger.org and www.auger.org.ar.

The international Pierre Auger Collaboration, which includes scientists from 17 countries, explores the origins of extremely rare ultra-high-energy cosmic rays—particles from space that hit Earth, some with energies 100 million times higher than those made by the world's highest-energy particle accelerator, the Tevatron at Fermilab or even those that will be produced in the LHC at CERN next year. These are the highest-energy particles ever recorded in nature. When such a particle hits the atmosphere it creates an air shower that can contain 200 billion particles by the time it reaches the ground.

The one-percent release is part of the worldwide Pierre Auger education and outreach program. It will allow teachers to expose students to real scientific data and the breathtaking processes that take place in the cosmos, hurling charged particles toward Earth. The two Web sites provide the data both as graphical displays and in tabular form. For each cosmic-ray air shower, the Web sites show the energy and direction of the incoming cosmic-ray particle. The public data provides information on cosmic-rays with extremely high energy, up to 5 x 10^19 electron volts (eV).

When construction is complete near the end of the year, the Pierre Auger Observatory will extend over 3000 square kilometres (~1000 square miles) in Argentina's Mendoza Province, just east of the Andes Mountains. The full observatory will consist of an array of 1,600 detectors that record the arrival of air showers on the ground. Information gathered by the detectors is transmitted to a central data acquisition system using solar-powered cellular phone technology. Surrounding the detector array and looking toward its centre is a set of 24 telescopes that—on clear moonless nights—observe the ultraviolet fluorescence light produced as shower particles travel through the atmosphere.

The Pierre Auger collaboration includes more than 370 scientists and engineers from 60 institutions in 17 countries, which share the construction cost of approximately $50 million (US).

The international funding agencies contributing to the Pierre Auger Observatory as well as the participating institutions are listed below.

Julia Maddock | alfa
Further information:
http://www.auger.org/media/
http://www.stfc.ac.uk

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