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  • richardmitnick 8:23 am on October 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Cosmic Rays, , , Speed of Light, The CMB: the cosmic microwave background, The CNB: the cosmic neutrino background, The Universe Has A Speed Limit And It Isn’t The Speed Of Light, The WHIM: the warm-hot intergalactic medium   

    From Ethan Siegel: “The Universe Has A Speed Limit, And It Isn’t The Speed Of Light” 

    From Ethan Siegel

    Oct 16, 2018

    1
    All massless particles travel at the speed of light, including the photon, gluon and gravitational waves, which carry the electromagnetic, strong nuclear and gravitational interactions, respectively. Particles with mass must always travel at speeds below the speed of light, and there’s an even more restrictive cutoff in our Universe. (NASA/Sonoma State University/Aurore Simonnet)

    Nothing can go faster than the speed of light in a vacuum. But particles in our Universe can’t even go that fast.

    When it comes to speed limits, the ultimate one set by the laws of physics themselves is the speed of light. As Albert Einstein first realized, everyone looking at a light ray sees that it appears to move at the same speed, regardless of whether it’s moving towards you or away from you. No matter how fast you travel or in what direction, all light always moves at the same speed, and this is true for all observers at all times. Moreover, anything that’s made of matter can only approach, but never reach, the speed of light. If you don’t have mass, you must move at the speed of light; if you do have mass, you can never reach it.

    But practically, in our Universe, there’s an even more restrictive speed limit for matter, and it’s lower than the speed of light. Here’s the scientific story of the real cosmic speed limit.

    When scientists talk about the speed of light — 299,792,458 m/s — we implicitly mean “the speed of light in a vacuum.” Only in the absence of particles, fields, or a medium to travel through can we achieve this ultimate cosmic speed. Even at that, it’s only the truly massless particles and waves that can achieve this speed. This includes photons, gluons, and gravitational waves, but not anything else we know of.

    Quarks, leptons, neutrinos, and even the hypothesized dark matter all have masses as a property inherent to them. Objects made out of these particles, like protons, atoms, and human beings all have mass, too. As a result, they can approach, but never reach, the speed of light in a vacuum. No matter how much energy you put into them, the speed of light, even in a vacuum, will forever be unattainable.

    But there’s no such thing, practically, as a perfect vacuum. Even in the deepest abyss of intergalactic space, there are three things you absolutely cannot get rid of.

    The WHIM: the warm-hot intergalactic medium. This tenuous, sparse plasma are the leftovers from the cosmic web. While matter clumps into stars, galaxies, and larger groupings, a fraction of that matter remains in the great voids of the Universe. Starlight ionizes it, creating a plasma that may make up about 50% of the total normal matter in the Universe.

    WHIM-Warm-Hot Intergalactic Medium Trevor Ponman U Birmingham


    The CMB: the cosmic microwave background. This leftover bath of photons originates from the Big Bang, where it was at extremely high energies. Even today, at temperatures just 2.7 degrees above absolute zero, there are over 400 CMB photons per cubic centimeter of space.

    CMB per ESA/Planck


    ESA/Planck 2009 to 2013

    The CNB: the cosmic neutrino background. The Big Bang, in addition to photons, creates a bath of neutrinos. Outnumbering protons by perhaps a billion to one, many of these now-slow-moving particles fall into galaxies and clusters, but many remain in intergalactic space as well.

    CNB- the cosmic neutrino background-Amand Faessler U Tuebingen

    3
    A multiwavelength view of the galactic center shows stars, gas, radiation and black holes, among other sources. But the light coming from all of these sources, from gamma rays to visible to radio light, can only indicate what our instruments are sensitive enough to detect from 25,000+ light years away. (NASA/ESA/SSC/CXC/STScI)

    Any particle traveling through the Universe will encounter particles from the WHIM, neutrinos from the CNB, and photons from the CMB. Even though they’re the lowest-energy things, the CMB photons are the most numerous and evenly-distributed particles of all. No matter how you’re generated or how much energy you have, it’s not really possible to avoid interacting with this 13.8 billion year old radiation.

    When we think about the highest-energy particles in the Universe — i.e., the ones that will be moving the fastest — we fully expect they’ll be generated under the most extreme conditions the Universe has to offer. That means we think we’ll find them where energies are highest and fields are strongest: in the vicinity of collapsed objects like neutron stars and black holes.

    4
    In this artistic rendering, a blazar is accelerating protons that produce pions, which produce neutrinos and gamma rays. (IceCube/NASA)

    U Wisconsin IceCube experiment at the South Pole



    Neutron stars and black hole are where you can not only find the strongest gravitational fields in the Universe, but — in theory — the strongest electromagnetic fields, too. The extremely strong fields are generated by charged particles, either on the surface of a neutron star or in the accretion disk around a black hole, that move close to the speed of light. Moving charged particles generate magnetic fields, and as particles move through these fields, they accelerate.

    This acceleration causes not only the emission of light of a myriad of wavelengths, from X-rays down to radio waves, but also the fastest, highest-energy particles ever seen: cosmic rays.

    Cosmic rays produced by high-energy astrophysics sources (ASPERA collaboration – AStroParticle ERAnet)

    Artist’s impression of the active galactic nucleus (DESY, Science Communication Lab)

    Whereas the Large Hadron Collider accelerates particles here on Earth up to a maximum velocity of 299,792,455 m/s, or 99.999999% the speed of light, cosmic rays can smash that barrier. The highest-energy cosmic rays have approximately 36 million times the energy of the fastest protons ever created at the Large Hadron Collider. Assuming that these cosmic rays are also made of protons gives a speed of 299,792,457.99999999999992 m/s, which is extremely close to, but still below, the speed of light in a vacuum.

    There’s a very good reason that, by time we receive them, these cosmic rays aren’t more energetic than this.

    The problem is that space isn’t a vacuum. In particular, the CMB will have its photons collide and interact with these particles as they travel through the Universe. No matter how high the energy is of the particle you made, it has to pass through the radiation bath that’s left over from the Big Bang in order to reach you.

    Even though this radiation is incredibly cold, at an average temperature of some 2.725 Kelvin, the mean energy of each photon in there isn’t negligible; it’s around 0.00023 electron-Volts. Even though that’s a tiny number, the cosmic rays hitting it can be incredibly energetic. Every time a high-energy charged particle interacts with a photon, it has the same possibility that all interacting particles have: if it’s energetically allowed, by E=mc², then there’s a chance it can create a new particle!

    5
    Whenever two particles collide at high enough energies, they have the opportunity to produce additional particle-antiparticle pairs, or new particles as the laws of quantum physics allow. Einstein’s E = mc² is indiscriminate this way. (E. Siegel / Beyond The Galaxy)

    If you ever create a particle with energies in excess of 5 × 10¹⁹ eV, they can only travel a few million light years — max — before one of these photons, left over from the Big Bang, interacts with it. When that interaction occurs, there will be enough energy to produce a neutral pion, which steals energy away from the original cosmic ray.

    The more energetic your particle is, the more likely you are to produce pions, which you’ll continue to do until you fall below this theoretical cosmic energy limit, known as the GZK cutoff. (Named for three physicists: Greisen, Zatsepin, and Kuzmin.) There’s even more braking (Bremsstrahlung) radiation that arises from interactions with any particles in the interstellar/intergalactic medium. Even lower-energy particles are subject to it, and radiate energy away in droves as electron/positron pairs (and other particles) are produced.

    We believe that every charged particle in the cosmos — every cosmic ray, every proton, every atomic nucleus — should limited by this speed. Not just the speed of light, but a little bit lower, thanks to the leftover glow from the Big Bang and the particles in the intergalactic medium. If we see anything that’s at a higher energy, then it either means:

    1.particles at high energies might be playing by different rules than the ones we presently think they do,
    2.they are being produced much closer than we think they are: within our own Local Group or Milky Way, rather than these distant, extragalactic black holes,
    3.or they’re not protons at all, but composite nuclei.

    The few particles we’ve seen that break the GZK barrier are indeed in excess of 5 × 10¹⁹ eV, in terms of energy, but do not exceed 3 × 10²¹ eV, which would be the corresponding energy value for an iron nucleus. Since many of the highest-energy cosmic rays have been confirmed to be heavy nuclei, rather than individual protons, this reigns as the most likely explanation for the extreme ultra-high-energy cosmic rays.

    6
    The spectrum of cosmic rays. As we go to higher and higher energies, we find fewer and fewer cosmic rays. We expected a complete cutoff at 5 x 10¹⁹ eV, but see particles coming in with up to 10 times that energy. (Hillas 2006 / University of Hamburg)

    There is a speed limit to the particles that travel through the Universe, and it isn’t the speed of light. Instead, it’s a value that’s very slightly lower, dictated by the amount of energy in the leftover glow from the Big Bang. As the Universe continues to expand and cool, that speed limit will slowly rise over cosmic timescales, getting ever-closer to the speed of light. But remember, as you travel through the Universe, if you go too fast, even the radiation left over from the Big Bang can fry you. So long as you’re made of matter, there’s a cosmic speed limit that you simply cannot overcome.

    See the full article here .

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    “Starts With A Bang! is a blog/video blog about cosmology, physics, astronomy, and anything else I find interesting enough to write about. I am a firm believer that the highest good in life is learning, and the greatest evil is willful ignorance. The goal of everything on this site is to help inform you about our world, how we came to be here, and to understand how it all works. As I write these pages for you, I hope to not only explain to you what we know, think, and believe, but how we know it, and why we draw the conclusions we do. It is my hope that you find this interesting, informative, and accessible,” says Ethan

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  • richardmitnick 10:42 pm on October 2, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Cosmic Rays, , , , , ,   

    From SLAC National Accelerator Lab: “Peering into 36-million-degree plasma with SLAC’s X-ray laser” 

    From SLAC National Accelerator Lab

    October 2, 2018
    Ali Sundermier
    For commnication
    communications@slac.stanford.edu

    1
    At the Matter in Extreme Conditions (MEC) instrument at LCLS, the researchers zapped knuckle-shaped samples with a laser to create plasma, then used an X-ray scattering technique to watch it expand and collide. (Matt Beardsley/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

    When you hit a piece of metal with a strong enough laser pulse you get a plasma – a hot, ionized gas found in everything from lightning to the sun. Studying it helps scientists understand what’s going on inside stars and could enable new types of particle accelerators for cancer treatment.

    Now a team of researchers has used an X-ray laser to measure, for the first time, how a plasma created by a laser blast expands in the hundreds of femtoseconds (quadrillionths of a second) after it’s created. Their technique could eventually reveal tiny instabilities in the plasma that swirl like cream in a cup of coffee.

    The experiments at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory involved scientists from SLAC, German research center Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) and other institutions, and was reported in Physical Review X in September.

    Blasting cancer cells

    Led by scientist Thomas Kluge at HZDR, the researchers have been working to harness the behavior of plasma to create a new type of particle accelerator for proton therapy, an existing cancer treatment that involves blasting tumors with charged particles rather than X-rays. This approach is gentler on the surrounding healthy tissue than traditional radiation therapy.

    When solid matter is zapped with a laser the interaction forms a plasma, causing a steady stream of protons to burst out of the back side of the sample. The researchers hope to use the proton streams to storm tumors and obliterate cancer cells. But producing these fast protons in a reliable way requires a better understanding of how plasma changes as it expands.

    “Instabilities can arise from the complex streams of electrons and ions moving back and forth in the plasma,” Kluge says. “You probably know one of these instabilities from the mushroom-shaped clouds that form when you drip milk into your morning coffee.”

    Hotter than ever

    Until now, it was difficult to probe plasma changes directly because they’re so tiny and happen on extremely fast time scales. This work, says Josefine Metzkes-Ng, co-author and junior group leader at HZDR, could only be done at SLAC where the researchers used a high-power, short-pulse optical laser beam to create the plasma and the Linac Coherent Light Source X-ray free-electron laser to probe it.

    SLAC/LCLS

    At the Matter in Extreme Conditions (MEC) instrument at LCLS, researchers create incredibly hot and dense matter that mimics the extreme conditions in the hearts of stars and planets. Simulations show that the researchers achieved a new temperature record for matter studied with a free-electron laser: 36 million degrees Fahrenheit, almost 10 million degrees hotter than the sun’s core.

    The researchers fabricated solid samples that consisted of raised silicon bars, like knuckles sticking out from a fist. They found that in the quadrillionths of seconds after they zapped the sample with intense, short pulses from the optical laser, tiny amounts of plasma stacked up between the knuckles. A special form of scattering that uses X-ray pulses from LCLS allowed them to peer inside the plasma to follow its evolution.

    This technique will pave the way for better understanding plasma instabilities, allowing researchers to create proton sources for cancer therapy with relatively small footprints that, unlike conventional accelerators, can be operated within a hospital. It will also be useful in research relevant to fusion energy, other types of novel particle accelerators and laboratory astrophysics.

    Speedy cosmic particles

    Siegfried Glenzer, director of the High Energy Density Division at SLAC, who helped with the paper, is especially excited about the prospect of using this technique to better understand the astrophysical processes that give cosmic rays – subatomic space particles that plunge into Earth’s atmosphere at almost the speed of light – their extreme energies.

    The highest-energy cosmic rays can pack a force comparable to that of a major league fastball hurtling toward a batter at 100 mph, condensed into a single subatomic particle. To accelerate a proton to the same energies as these cosmic rays, scientists would have to build an accelerator that sends particles traveling from Earth to Saturn and back.

    Using LCLS, scientists are able to recreate some of the astrophysical processes that may produce these high-energy cosmic rays, such as energetic jets that shoot out from the turbulent hearts of active galaxies. Now the new technique will allow them to directly observe the plasma instabilities that might be responsible for accelerating cosmic rays.

    “Cosmic rays are the largest particle accelerators known to mankind,” Glenzer says. “They have a million times higher energy than particles accelerated in the Large Hadron Collider. Recently, astronomers traced a cosmic ray particle to an active galactic nucleus jet. Our goal is to produce these types of jets in the laboratory so we can study the formation of these instabilities and show whether they can accelerate particles to such high energies and, if so, how it happens.”

    Flipping the light switch

    According to Kluge, “This research has opened the black box of how short-pulse lasers interact with solids, allowing us to directly see a little of what’s going on, which previously could only be simulated with largely unverified atomic models.

    “It’s a little like switching on a light,” he says. “Although we have some ideas, we don’t know what we will find, but surely it will help us develop the next generation of laser-based ion accelerators and could shape new applications in astrophysics, medicine and plasma physics. For me as a theorist and simulation guy, the most exciting thing about this project is that I can now lay my simulations aside and look at the real thing.”

    The research team also included scientists from Technical University Dresden, European XFEL, University of Siegen, Friedrich Schiller University Jena and Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology, all in Germany.

    LCLS is a DOE Office of Science user facility. Funding was provided by the DOE Office of Science.

    See the full article here .


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    SLAC Campus
    SLAC is a multi-program laboratory exploring frontier questions in photon science, astrophysics, particle physics and accelerator research. Located in Menlo Park, California, SLAC is operated by Stanford University for the DOE’s Office of Science.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:21 am on August 26, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Cosmic Rays, , , One photon emitted during the solar minimum had an energy as high as 467.7 GeV, , , Strange gamma rays from the sun may help decipher its magnetic fields, The high-energy light is more plentiful and weirder than anyone expected   

    From Science News: “Strange gamma rays from the sun may help decipher its magnetic fields” 

    From Science News

    August 24, 2018
    Lisa Grossman

    The high-energy light is more plentiful and weirder than anyone expected.

    1
    A TANGLED SKEIN The sun’s knotted magnetic fields, visualized here as white lines, scramble cosmic rays and may cause them to shoot energetic light called high-energy gamma rays toward Earth. Solar Dynamics Observatory/GSFC/NASA

    NASA/SDO

    The sleepy sun turns out to be a factory of extremely energetic light.

    Scientists have discovered that the sun puts out more of this light, called high-energy gamma rays, overall than predicted. But what’s really weird is that the rays with the highest energies appear when the star is supposed to be at its most sluggish, researchers report in an upcoming study in Physical Review Letters. The research is the first to examine these gamma rays over most of the solar cycle, a roughly 11-year period of waxing and waning solar activity.

    That newfound oddity is probably connected to the activity of the sun’s magnetic fields, the researchers say, and could lead to new insights about the mysterious environment.

    “The almost certain thing that’s going on here is the magnetic fields are much more powerful, much more variable, and much more weirdly shaped than we expect,” says astrophysicist John Beacom of the Ohio State University in Columbus.

    The sun’s high-energy gamma rays aren’t produced directly by the star. Instead, the light is triggered by cosmic rays — protons that zip through space with some of the highest energies known in nature — that smack into solar protons and produce high-energy gamma rays in the process (SN: 10/14/27, p. 7).

    All of those gamma rays would get lost inside the sun, if not for magnetic fields. Magnetic fields are known to take charged particles like cosmic rays and spin them around like a house in a tornado. Theorists have predicted that cosmic rays whose paths have been scrambled by the tangled mass of magnetic fields at the solar surface should send high-energy gamma rays shooting back out of the sun, where astronomers can see them.

    Beacom and colleagues, led by astrophysicist Tim Linden of Ohio State, sifted through data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope from August 2008 to November 2017.

    NASA/Fermi LAT


    NASA/Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope

    The observations spanned a period of low solar activity in 2008 and 2009, a period of higher activity in 2013 and a decline in activity to the minimum of the next cycle, which started in 2018 (SN: 11/2/13, p. 22). The team tracked the number of solar gamma rays emitted per second, as well as their energies and where on the sun they came from.

    There were more high-energy gamma rays, above 50 billion electron volts, or GeV, than anyone predicted, the team reports. Weirder still, rays with energies above 100 GeV appeared only during the solar minimum, when the sun’s activity level was low. One photon emitted during the solar minimum had an energy as high as 467.7 GeV.

    Strangest of all, the sun seems to emit gamma rays from different parts of its surface at different times in its cycle. Because cosmic rays that hit the sun come in from all directions, you would expect the entire sun to light up in gamma rays uniformly. But Beacom’s team found that during the solar minimum, gamma rays came mainly from near the equator, and during the solar maximum, when the sun’s activity level was high, they clustered near the poles.

    “All of these things are way more weird than anyone had predicted,” Beacom says. “And that means the magnetic fields must be way more weird than anyone had thought.”
    ____________________________________________________
    The missing middle

    These plots show that the sun shot light called high-energy gamma rays from its middle during a period of low solar activity (from about August 2008 to the end of 2009, left), but not during a period of high activity (from 2010 until 2017, right). The gamma rays seem to migrate from the equator to the poles after 2010. Rays with less than 100 billion electron volts, or GeV, of energy are depicted as circles; those with 100 GeV or more are triangles. The bar graphs represent the number of gamma rays that came from different latitudes.

    3
    T. Linden et al/Physical Review Letters 2018
    ____________________________________________________

    Beacom and colleagues tried to connect the excess gamma rays to other solar behaviors that change with magnetic activity, like solar flares or sunspots (SN: 9/30/17, p. 6). “So far nothing has really held up to any sort of scrutiny,” says astrophysicist Annika Peter, also at Ohio State.

    High-energy gamma rays may offer a new way to probe the magnetic fields in the uppermost layer of the solar surface, called the photosphere. “You can’t see [the fields] with a telescope,” Beacom says. “But these [cosmic rays] are journeying there, and the gamma rays they send back are messengers of the terrible conditions there.”

    More observations are coming soon. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which launched on August 12, will take the first direct measurements of the magnetic field in the sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona (SN: 7/21/18, p. 12).

    154f8-sol_parkersolarprobe2_nasa


    NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus

    And as the sun enters the next solar minimum, the highest-energy gamma rays are starting to return. In February, Fermi caught its first gamma ray with an energy above 100 GeV since 2009.

    “There really is something strange afoot,” says solar physicist Craig DeForest of the Southwest Research Institute, who is based in Boulder, Colo., and was not involved in the work. “When there’s some new discovery, scientists don’t shout ‘Eureka!’ They go, ‘Hm, that’s funny. That can’t be right.’ This is a classic case of that.”

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 1:13 pm on July 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Cosmic Rays, , ,   

    From U Hawaii via Eureka Alert: Late to the Party, but “Hawaii telescopes help unravel long-standing cosmic mystery” 

    U Hawaii

    From University of Hawaii Manoa

    via

    EurekAlert!

    12-Jul-2018

    Astronomers and physicists around the world, including in Hawaii, have begun to unravel a long-standing cosmic mystery. Using a vast array of telescopes in space and on Earth, they have identified a source of cosmic rays.

    Artist’s impression of a blazar emitting neutrinos and gamma rays via IceCube and NASA

    Blazar. NASA Fermi Gamma ray Space Telescope. Credits M. Weiss/ CfA

    NASA/Fermi LAT

    NASA/Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope

    Astronomers and physicists around the world, including in Hawaii, have begun to unravel a long-standing cosmic mystery. Using a vast array of telescopes in space and on Earth, they have identified a source of cosmic rays–highly energetic particles that continuously rain down on Earth from space.

    In a paper published this week in the journal Science, scientists have, for the first time, provided evidence for a known blazar, designated TXS 0506+056, as a source of high-energy neutrinos. At 8:54 p.m. on September 22, 2017, the National Science Foundation-supported IceCube neutrino observatory at the South Pole detected a high energy neutrino from a direction near the constellation Orion. Just 44 seconds later an alert went out to the entire astronomical community.

    U Wisconsin ICECUBE neutrino detector at the South Pole

    IceCube employs more than 5000 detectors lowered on 86 strings into almost 100 holes in the Antarctic ice NSF B. Gudbjartsson, IceCube Collaboration

    Lunar Icecube

    IceCube DeepCore annotated

    IceCube PINGU annotated


    DM-Ice II at IceCube annotated

    The All Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae team (ASAS-SN), an international collaboration headquartered at Ohio State University, immediately jumped into action. ASAS-SN uses a network of 20 small, 14-centimeter telescopes in Hawaii, Texas, Chile and South Africa to scan the visible sky every 20 hours looking for very bright supernovae. It is the only all-sky, real-time variability survey in existence.

    ASAS-SN Brutus at lcogt site Hawaii

    LCOGT Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, Haleakala Hawaii, USA, Elevation 10,023 ft (3,055 m)

    “When ASAS-SN receives an alert from IceCube, we automatically find the first available ASAS-SN telescope that can see that area of the sky and observe it as quickly as possible,” said Benjamin Shappee, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Astronomy and an ASAS-SN core member.

    On September 23, only 13 hours after the initial alert, the recently commissioned ASAS-SN unit at McDonald Observatory in Texas [image of exas unit N/A] mapped the sky in the area of the neutrino detection. Those observations and the more than 800 images of the same part of the sky taken since October 2012 by the first ASAS-SN unit, located on Maui’s Haleakala, showed that TXS 0506+056 had entered its highest state since 2012.

    “The IceCube detection and the ASAS-SN detection combined with gamma-ray detections from NASA’s Fermi gamma-ray space telescope and the MAGIC telescopes that show TXS 0506+056 was undergoing the strongest gamma-ray flare in a decade, indicate that this could be the first identified source of high-energy neutrinos, and thus a cosmic-ray source,” said Anna Franckowiak, ASAS-SN and IceCube team member, Helmholtz Young Investigator, and staff scientist at DESY in Germany.

    MAGIC Cherenkov telescope array at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on the island of La Palma, in the Canaries, Spain, sited on a volcanic peak 2,267 metres (7,438 ft) above sea level

    Since they were first detected more than one hundred years ago, cosmic rays have posed an enduring mystery: What creates and launches these particles across such vast distances? Where do they come from?

    One of the best suspects have been quasars, supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies that are actively consuming gas and dust.

    Quasar. ESO/M. Kornmesser

    Quasars are among the most energetic phenomena in the universe and can form relativistic jets where elementary particles are accelerate and launched at nearly the speed of light. If that jet happens to be pointed toward Earth, the light from the jet outshines all other emission from the host galaxy and the highly accelerated particles are launched toward the Milky Way. This specific type of quasar is called a blazar [above].

    However, because cosmic rays are charged particles, their paths cannot be traced directly back to their places of origin. Due to the powerful magnetic fields that fill space, they don’t travel along a straight path. Luckily, the powerful cosmic accelerators that produce them also emit neutrinos, which are uncharged and unaffected by even the most powerful magnetic fields. Because they rarely interact with matter and have almost no mass, these “ghost particles” travel nearly undisturbed from their cosmic accelerators, giving scientists an almost direct pointer to their source.

    “Crucially, the presence of neutrinos also differentiates between two types of gamma-ray sources: those that accelerate only cosmic-ray electrons, which do not produce neutrinos, and those that accelerate cosmic-ray protons, which do,” said John Beacom, an astrophysicist at the Ohio State University and an ASAS-SN member.

    Detecting the highest energy neutrinos requires a massive particle detector, and the National Science Foundation-supported IceCube observatory [above] is the world’s largest. The detector is composed of more than 5,000 light sensors arranged in a grid, buried in a cubic kilometer of deep, pristine ice a mile beneath the surface at the South Pole. When a neutrino interacts with an atomic nucleus, it creates a secondary charged particle, which, in turn, produces a characteristic cone of blue light that is detected by IceCube’s grid of photomultiplier tubes. Because the charged particle and the light it creates stay essentially true to the neutrino’s original direction, they give scientists a path to follow back to the source.

    About 20 observatories on Earth and in space have also participated in this discovery. This includes the 8.4-meter Subaru Telescope on Maunakea, which was used to observe the host galaxy of TXS 0506+056 in an attempt to measure its distance, and thus determine the intrinsic luminosity, or energy output, of the blazar.


    NAOJ/Subaru Telescope at Mauna Kea Hawaii, USA,4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    These observations are difficult, because the blazar jet is much brighter than the host galaxy. Disentangling the jet and the host requires the largest telescopes in the world, like those on Maunakea.

    “This discovery demonstrates how the many different telescopes and detectors around and above the world can come together to tell us something amazing about our Universe. This also emphasizes the critical role that telescopes in Hawaii play in that community,” said Shappee.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 5:34 pm on December 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Cosmic Rays, , , , , NASA's SuperTIGER Balloon Flies Again to Study Heavy Cosmic Particles, ,   

    From Goddard: “NASA’s SuperTIGER Balloon Flies Again to Study Heavy Cosmic Particles” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    Dec. 6, 2017
    Francis Reddy
    francis.j.reddy@nasa.gov
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    A science team in Antarctica is preparing to loft a balloon-borne instrument to collect information on cosmic rays, high-energy particles from beyond the solar system that enter Earth’s atmosphere every moment of every day. The instrument, called the Super Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder (SuperTIGER), is designed to study rare heavy nuclei, which hold clues about where and how cosmic rays attain speeds up to nearly the speed of light.

    1
    NASA’s Super-TIGER balloon

    The launch is expected by Dec. 10, weather permitting.

    1
    Explore this infographic [on the full article] to learn more about SuperTIGER, cosmic rays and scientific ballooning.
    Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    Download infographic as PDF

    “The previous flight of SuperTIGER lasted 55 days, setting a record for the longest flight of any heavy-lift scientific balloon,” said Robert Binns, the principal investigator at Washington University in St. Louis, which leads the mission. “The time aloft translated into a long exposure, which is important because the particles we’re after make up only a tiny fraction of cosmic rays.”

    The most common cosmic ray particles are protons or hydrogen nuclei, making up roughly 90 percent, followed by helium nuclei (8 percent) and electrons (1 percent). The remainder contains the nuclei of other elements, with dwindling numbers of heavy nuclei as their mass rises. With SuperTIGER, researchers are looking for the rarest of the rare — so-called ultra-heavy cosmic ray nuclei beyond iron, from cobalt to barium.

    “Heavy elements, like the gold in your jewelry, are produced through special processes in stars, and SuperTIGER aims to help us understand how and where this happens,” said lead co-investigator John Mitchell at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “We’re all stardust, but figuring out where and how this stardust is made helps us better understand our galaxy and our place in it.”

    When a cosmic ray strikes the nucleus of a molecule of atmospheric gas, both explode in a shower of subatomic shrapnel that triggers a cascade of particle collisions. Some of these secondary particles reach detectors on the ground, providing information scientists can use to infer the properties of the original cosmic ray. But they also produce an interfering background that is greatly reduced by flying instruments on scientific balloons, which reach altitudes of nearly 130,000 feet (40,000 meters) and float above 99.5 percent of the atmosphere.

    The most massive stars forge elements up to iron in their cores and then explode as supernovas, dispersing the material into space. The explosions also create conditions that result in a brief, intense flood of subatomic particles called neutrons. Many of these neutrons can “stick” to iron nuclei. Some of them subsequently decay into protons, producing new elements heavier than iron.

    Supernova blast waves provide the boost that turns these particles into high-energy cosmic rays.

    4
    NASA’s Fermi Proves Supernova Remnants Produce Cosmic Rays. February 14, 2013.

    NASA/Fermi Telescope


    NASA/Fermi LAT


    As a shock wave expands into space, it entraps and accelerates particles until they reach energies so extreme they can no longer be contained.

    4
    On Dec. 1, SuperTIGER was brought onto the deck of Payload Building 2 at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, to test communications in preparation for its second flight. Mount Erebus, the southernmost active volcano on Earth, appears in the background.
    Credits: NASA/Jason Link

    Over the past two decades, evidence accumulated from detectors on NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer satellite and SuperTIGER’s predecessor, the balloon-borne TIGER instrument, has allowed scientists to work out a general picture of cosmic ray sources. Roughly 20 percent of cosmic rays were thought to arise from massive stars and supernova debris, while 80 percent came from interstellar dust and gas with chemical quantities similar to what’s found in the solar system.

    “Within the last few years, it has become apparent that some or all of the very neutron-rich elements heavier than iron may be produced by neutron star mergers instead of supernovas,” said co-investigator Jason Link at Goddard.

    Neutron stars are the densest objects scientists can study directly, the crushed cores of massive stars that exploded as supernovas. Neutron stars orbiting each other in binary systems emit gravitational waves, which are ripples in space-time predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity. These waves remove orbital energy, causing the stars to draw ever closer until they eventually crash together and merge.

    Theorists calculated that these events would be so thick with neutrons they could be responsible for most of the very neutron-rich cosmic rays heavier than nickel. On Aug. 17, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the National Science Foundation’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory detected the first light and gravitational waves from crashing neutron stars. Later observations by the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes indicate that large amounts of heavy elements were formed in the event.

    “It’s possible neutron star mergers are the dominant source of heavy, neutron-rich cosmic rays, but different theoretical models produce different quantities of elements and their isotopes,” Binns said. “The only way to choose between them is to measure what’s really out there, and that’s what we’ll be doing with SuperTIGER.”

    SuperTIGER is funded by the NASA Headquarters Science Mission Directorate Astrophysics Division.

    The National Science Foundation (NSF) Office of Polar Programs manages the U.S. Antarctic Program and provides logistic support for all U.S. scientific operations in Antarctica. NSF’s Antarctic support contractor supports the launch and recovery operations for NASA’s Balloon Program in Antarctica. Mission data were downloaded using NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System.

    For more information about NASA’s Balloon Program, visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/balloons

    See the full article here.

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    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.


    NASA/Goddard Campus

     
  • richardmitnick 11:55 am on November 3, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Because it is inaccessible it probably isn’t a burial chamber, Cosmic Rays, Cosmic rays reveal unknown void in the Great Pyramid of Giza, Every minute tens of thousands of muons pass through each square meter of Earth, Great Pyramid of Giza, he particles are much like electrons but 207 times as massive, he scientists have “seen” the void using three different muon detectors in three independent experiments, , Such a big void can’t be an accident   

    From Science: “Cosmic rays reveal unknown void in the Great Pyramid of Giza” 

    ScienceMag
    Science Magazine

    Nov. 2, 2017 [I kept ignoring this story because I had only found it in lesser providers. Science Mag is a trustworthy source.]
    Giorgia Guglielmi

    1
    Artist’s rendering of a cross-section of the Great Pyramid showing the newly discovered void (represented as a white area) above the large inclined corridor known as grand gallery. ScanPyramids mission

    Some 4500 years ago, the ancient Egyptians built the Great Pyramid of Giza as a tomb for the pharaoh Khufu, also known as Cheops, one that would ferry him to the afterlife. Now, using subatomic particles raining down from the heavens, a team of physicists has found a previously unknown cavity within Khufu’s great monument.

    “Such a big void can’t be an accident,” says Mehdi Tayoubi, president of the non-profit Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute in Paris, who led the research. The discovery has already stirred the interest of archaeologists and particle physicists alike.

    Made of an estimated 2.3 million stone blocks and standing 140 meters tall and 230 meters wide, the Great Pyramid is an engineering mystery, much like its two smaller sister pyramids, Khafre’s and Menkaure’s. Archaeologists know that it was built for Khufu, who died in 2566 B.C.E. But they have long wondered exactly how the pyramid was constructed and structured.

    Now, archaeologists are getting help from an unlikely source: cosmic rays, subatomic particles that rain down from space. In fact, a team of physicists has found a previously unknown void within the pyramid by imaging it with muons, high-energy byproducts of cosmic rays that are created when protons and other atomic nuclei strike the atmosphere.

    Every minute, tens of thousands of muons pass through each square meter of Earth. The particles are much like electrons but 207 times as massive. Because they’re so heavy, the negatively charged particles can travel through hundreds of meters of stone before being absorbed—whereas electrons make it only a few centimeters. So just as doctors use x-rays to look into our bodies, physicists can use muons to peek into thick structures—from volcanoes to disabled nuclear power plants. To do that, all researchers need to do is to place a muon detector, such as tile-sized special photographic films, underneath, within, or near an object and count the number of muons coming through the thing in different directions.

    One of the first times scientists used muon imaging was to search for hidden chambers in Khafre’s pyramid at Giza in the late 1960s. None was discovered. This time around, after a 2016 experiment revealed anomalies that could indicate something behind its walls, scientists set out to image Khufu’s pyramid. To do that they placed various direction-sensitive muon detectors in the queen’s chamber and in an adjacent corridor within the pyramid and at its base on the north side, and analyzed the collected data every 2 to 5 months. As proof of principle, they confirmed the presence of three known large cavities: the queen’s and king’s chambers, and a long corridor that connects them, known as the grand gallery.

    But, just above the grand gallery the researchers also spotted a new void area, they report today in Nature. The new cavity is nearly 8 meters high, 2 meters wide, and at least 30 meters long—like a cathedral, but much narrower—and it rises 20 meters above the ground in the pyramid’s core.

    The scientists have “seen” the void using three different muon detectors in three independent experiments, which makes their finding very robust, says Lee Thompson, an expert in particle physics at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom who was not involved in the work. But the cavity’s detailed structure remains unclear: It might be one or many adjacent compartments, and could be horizontal or slanted.

    At this stage, the cavity’s function can only be guessed. Because it is inaccessible, it probably isn’t a burial chamber, says archaeologist Mark Lehner, director of Ancient Egypt Research Associates in Boston, who was not involved in the research. “It’s not the ideal place to contain a body,” he says. It could have purely symbolic meaning, as a passage for the pharaoh’s soul, Tayoubi says.

    Zahi Hawass, an Egyptologist based in Cairo who chairs the committee that reviewed the research project, cautions against calling the cavity a “secret room,” as pyramid builders often left large gaps between stone blocks, a construction strategy that makes the pyramid’s core look like Swiss cheese. The void might simply have served to relieve the weight of the stone blocks above the grand gallery to preserve it from collapse, like the five compartments, stacked on top of each other, that protect the king’s chamber in the same pyramid, Lehner says.

    To answer questions about the cavity’s structure and function, the researchers hope to do more muon imaging experiments with finer resolution. This means placing more detectors inside and near the pyramid that collect data for longer—up to several years, Tayoubi says. Understanding the detailed structure of the cavity could also help determine how the Great Pyramid was built in the first place, whether using external ramps or internal passages through which stone blocks were carried to the higher levels of the structure.

    Until then, the new finding, although “impressive,” doesn’t dramatically change the way we think about pyramids, Lehner says. But other scientists, such as particle physicist Guido Saracino of the University of Naples Federico II in Italy, are thrilled. According to Saracino, this work confirms that particle physics can have important practical applications, including archaeological surveys. And one day it may help scientists figure out how the ancient pyramids were built.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:23 pm on September 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Cosmic Rays, , ,   

    From Penn State: “Mystery solved: Super-energetic space particles crash to Earth from far away” 

    Penn State Bloc

    Pennsylvania State University

    September 21, 2017

    1
    An image of the Earth showing the continent of South America, with faint white streaks representing cosmic rays streaming toward the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina. Image: Pierre Auger Observatory

    Super-energetic space particles, which were thought to have been blasted toward Earth from somewhere outside our solar system, now have been discovered to be from very far away indeed — from far outside our Milky Way galaxy. The discovery was made by an international team that includes Penn State scientists and the Pierre Auger Collaboration, using the largest cosmic-ray instrument ever built, the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina. A paper describing the discovery will be published in the journal Science on Sept. 22.


    This animation illustrates the long journey of high-energy cosmic waves from the time they are shot into space from powerful events in galaxies far away from our Milky Way Galaxy until they eventually crash on Earth, leaving clues among the large array of cosmic-ray detectors in western Argentina, the Pierre Auger Observatory. Penn State scientists are members of the Pierre Auger Consortium.
    Pierre Auger Collaboration

    “After more than a century since cosmic rays were first detected, this is the first truly significant result from our analysis of the detections, which now have revealed the distant origin of these ultra-high-energy cosmic rays,” said Miguel Mostafá at Penn State. He and Stephane Coutu — both professors of physics and of astronomy and astrophysics and Fellows of the American Physical Society — lead teams of students and post-doctoral scientists in research at Penn State’s Pierre Auger Collaboration group.

    Pierre Auger Observatory in the western Mendoza Province, Argentina, near the Andes

    “Now we know that the highest-energy particles in the universe came from other galaxies in our cosmological neighborhood,” Mostafá said.

    Mostafá and Coutu have been working on the project since 1996 and 1997, respectively, with support from the U.S. National Science Foundation. Mostafá has been a coordinator of the Auger team in charge of this analysis of cosmic-ray arrival directions, and is one of the corresponding authors on the Science article.

    Although the Pierre Auger Collaboration’s discovery clearly shows an origin outside our Milky Way galaxy, the specific sources that are producing the particles have not yet been discovered. “We are now considerably closer to solving the mystery of where and how these extraordinary particles are produced, a question of great interest to astrophysicists,” said Karl-Heinz Kampert, professor of physics at the University of Wuppertal in Germany and spokesperson for the Pierre Auger Collaboration.

    See the full article here .

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    Penn State Campus

    WHAT WE DO BEST

    We teach students that the real measure of success is what you do to improve the lives of others, and they learn to be hard-working leaders with a global perspective. We conduct research to improve lives. We add millions to the economy through projects in our state and beyond. We help communities by sharing our faculty expertise and research.

    Penn State lives close by no matter where you are. Our campuses are located from one side of Pennsylvania to the other. Through Penn State World Campus, students can take courses and work toward degrees online from anywhere on the globe that has Internet service.

    We support students in many ways, including advising and counseling services for school and life; diversity and inclusion services; social media sites; safety services; and emergency assistance.

    Our network of more than a half-million alumni is accessible to students when they want advice and to learn about job networking and mentor opportunities as well as what to expect in the future. Through our alumni, Penn State lives all over the world.

    The best part of Penn State is our people. Our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends in communities near our campuses and across the globe are dedicated to education and fostering a diverse and inclusive environment.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:25 pm on September 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Cosmic Rays, , , HESS Cherenko Array   

    From H.E.S.S. : “Probing Local Sources with High Energy Cosmic Ray Electrons” 

    HESS Cherenko Array

    September 2017

    Cosmic rays are high energy particles that pervade the Galaxy. Electrons represent only a small fraction of cosmic rays, which consist primarily of protons and nuclei. However, they are able to provide us with unique information complementary to what can be learnt from protons and nuclei. Due to the important difference in mass (an electron being about 1800 times lighter than a proton or any nuclei), electrons lose energy much more rapidly while propagating from their sources to Earth. Energy losses occur when the electrons interact with magnetic fields or scatter on ambient light in the Galaxy of different wavelengths: photons from the Cosmic Microwave Background or infrared photons or also photons emitted by stars for instance. Because of the strong radiative energy losses, very-high-energy cosmic-ray electrons can only travel short distances. Therefore, they provide us with information of the Earth’s local surroundings in the Galaxy. For example, electrons with an energy of 1 TeV (*) that reach the Earth are dominated by sources closer than ~1,000 light-years away. In comparison, the distance between the Sun and the centre of the Galaxy is about 24,000 light-year. For electrons with energies beyond 1 TeV, their sources must be even closer still….on our Galactic doorstep!

    Up to ∼1 TeV, cosmic-ray electrons can be measured using space based instruments such as AMS [1] or Fermi-LAT [2].


    NASA/AMS02 device

    NASA/Fermi LAT

    More dedicated space based instruments such as CALET or DAMPE are planning to measure the electron spectrum up to ∼10 TeV and recently CALET presented at this year’s International Cosmic Ray Conference first results up to ∼1 TeV, fully compatible with previous measurements.

    1
    CALET on the ISS

    2
    DAMPE DArk Matter Particle Explorer Chinese Academy of Sciences

    Above 1 TeV, the flux is very low and the use of ground-based Cherenkov telescopes, which feature very large effective areas, have proven to provide a robust probe of this flux up to high energies. Through measurements by H.E.S.S. [3], [4], MAGIC [5] and VERITAS [6], the frontier in the detected energy range of the cosmic-ray electron spectrum has been pushed up to ∼5 TeV.

    MAGIC Cherenkov gamma ray telescope on the Canary island of La Palma, Spain

    CfA/VERITAS, a major ground-based gamma-ray observatory with an array of four 12m optical reflectors for gamma-ray astronomy in the GeV – TeV energy range. Located at FLWO in AZ, USA

    These experiments are designed for gamma-ray observations: they detect gamma-rays through the cascade of secondary particles resulting from the interaction between a gamma-ray and a nucleus in the atmosphere. Their ability to measure electrons comes from the fact that both electrons and gamma-rays, upon their arrival at the Earth’s atmosphere, deposit their energy by the generation of essentially identical types of cascades.

    The main challenge of a cosmic-ray electron measurement is the distinction between electron and background events. This background can either be gamma-rays (which produce the same type of particle cascades) or protons and heavier nuclei (which massively outnumber the electrons). Since gamma-rays move in straight lines from their astrophysical sources, regions in the sky known for containing gamma-ray sources are excluded from the analysis. Cosmic-ray protons (and other nuclei) are the vast majority of cosmic rays, and a fraction of them can mimic atmospheric cascades induced by cosmic-ray electrons. Both protons and electrons seem to come from all directions of the sky with no preferred direction — at least to high degree of accuracy. This is due to their electric charge: whatever the sources of these charged particles, the magnetic fields in the Galaxy will affect their trajectories, leading them to a random walk through the Galaxy and eventually arriving at Earth isotropically. Therefore, protons cannot be excluded from the data in a similar fashion as for the gamma-rays. Thus, the distinction between electrons and protons is done using a specific algorithm based on the — sometimes very tiny — difference in shape of the cascades generated by electrons and protons [7].

    More than 9 years after the first electron spectrum measurement with H.E.S.S., subsequent observations have increased fourfold the amount of available data. In addition, analysis techniques have improved significantly, leading to a much better suppression of the background of cosmic-ray nuclei. These improvements allow for the first time a measurement of cosmic-ray electrons up to energies of ∼ 20 TeV (see Figure 1).

    3
    Fig 1: Cosmic-ray electrons energy spectrum measured with H.E.S.S. in 2017 (red dots) compared to previous measurements from various experiments.

    This new measurement from 0.25 TeV to ∼20 TeV reveals an electron spectrum that can be described by two regimes in the high energy region. The spectrum appears quite regular with a constant slope up to an energy of about 1 TeV. Above this energy the spectrum becomes steeper. This break in the spectral slope is the sign of some different physics phenomenon at play, most probably the transition between a regime where a large number of sources contribute to the spectrum, to a regime where only a few, the closest ones from Earth, are able to contribute. The very high energies reached in this measurement allow to test models of nearby sources of cosmic-ray electrons in which one source is very prominent. These models are very popular since those nearby sources of electrons (mainly pulsars) are often invoked as a possible explanation for the excess of positrons (**) measured by some experiments such as Pamela [8] and AMS [9].

    4
    Pamela, built by the Wizard collaboration, which includes Russia, Italy, Germany and Sweden.

    The steeply falling spectrum measured with H.E.S.S. from ∼1 TeV to ∼20 TeV allows to reject models with predictions of pronounced features in the spectrum as shown in Figure 2. The black line symbolises the individual contribution of two possible sources (the Vela and the Cygus Loop supernova remnants) for a given model presented in [10] that is obviously not reproducing the data. Therefore, this new measurement of cosmic-ray electrons reveals not only for the first time the shape of the cosmic-ray electron spectrum beyond ∼5 TeV, but also provides important information on cosmic-ray accelerators in Earth’s local neighbourhood, demanding that very local sources exist.

    5
    Fig 2: Comparison of the new measurement by H.E.S.S. (red dots) with some model predictions for two supernova remnants, Vela and Cygnus Loop (black lines). This specific model is clearly excluded by this measurement since the predicted feature for the Vela supernova remnant is not seen at all.

    Fig 2: Comparison of the new measurement by H.E.S.S. (red dots) with some model predictions for two supernova remnants, Vela and Cygnus Loop (black lines). This specific model is clearly excluded by this measurement since the predicted feature for the Vela supernova remnant is not seen at all.

    (*) 1 TeV = 1012 eV and one eV (abbreviation of electron-volt) is a unit of energy which, by definition, represents the amount of energy gained by an electron when accelerated by an electric potential difference of 1 volt.

    (**) The positron is the antiparticle of the electron.

    References: [sorry, no links]

    [1] AMS Collaboration, Phys. Rev. Lett. 113, 221102 (2014)
    [2] Fermi-LAT Collaboration, Physical Review D 95 (2017)
    [3] F. Aharonian et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 101, 261104 (2008)
    [4] F. Aharonian et al., Astron. Astrophys. 508, 561 (2009)
    [5] D. Tridon et al., Proceedings of the 32nd ICRC (2011)
    [6] D. Staszak et al., proceedings of the 34th ICRC (2015)
    [7] M. de Naurois and L. Rolland, Astroparticle Physics, 32, 231 (2009)
    [8] PAMELA Collaboration, Nature 458, 607–609 (2009)
    [9] AMS Collaboration, Phys. Rev. Lett. 110, 141102 (2013)
    [10] T. Kobayashi et al., Astrophys. J. 601, 340 (2004)

    See the full article here .
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    The High Energy Stereoscopic System

    H.E.S.S. is a system of Imaging Atmospheric Cherenkov Telescopes that investigates cosmic gamma rays in the energy range from 10s of GeV to 10s of TeV. The name H.E.S.S. stands for High Energy Stereoscopic System, and is also intended to pay homage to Victor Hess , who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1936 for his discovery of cosmic radiation. The instrument allows scientists to explore gamma-ray sources with intensities at a level of a few thousandths of the flux of the Crab nebula (the brightest steady source of gamma rays in the sky). H.E.S.S. is located in Namibia, near the Gamsberg mountain, an area well known for its excellent optical quality. The first of the four telescopes of Phase I of the H.E.S.S. project went into operation in Summer 2002; all four were operational in December 2003, and were officially inaugurated on September 28, 2004. A much larger fifth telescope – H.E.S.S. II – is operational since July 2012, extending the energy coverage towards lower energies and further improving sensitivity.

    crab
    Crab nebula

     
  • richardmitnick 5:57 pm on July 25, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Cosmic Rays, ,   

    From U Wisconsin IceCube: “Improved measurements of neutrino oscillations with IceCube” 

    icecube
    U Wisconsin IceCube South Pole Neutrino Observatory

    25 Jul 2017
    Sílvia Bravo

    A denser and smaller array of sensors at the bottom of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, the DeepCore detector, enables the detection of neutrinos produced by the interaction of cosmic rays with the atmosphere down to energies of only a few GeVs. On their way to IceCube, many of the neutrinos produced in the Northern Hemisphere will morph into other neutrinos due to a well-known quantum effect: neutrino oscillations

    n 2013, IceCube reported its first measurement of the neutrino oscillation parameters. This was the first time that neutrino oscillations were measured with precision at energies between 20 and 100 GeV. The results were compatible with those from devoted neutrino experiments, but now the model was tested at higher energies, although uncertainties were still larger. A year later, the collaboration presented a second analysis with three years of data that improved the precision by a factor of ten. This week, the IceCube Collaboration presents a new measurement of the oscillation parameters that for the first time is competitive with the best measurements to date. These results have just been submitted to Physical Review Letters.

    1
    The oscillations parameters measured in this work compared to best results from other experiments. The cross marks the IceCube best-fit point. The 90% confidence level contours were calculated using the approach of Feldman and Cousins. The outer plots show the results of the 1-D projections of the 68% confidence level contours. Credit: IceCube Collaboration

    Long-baseline experiments, such as T2K or NOvA, observe much lower energy events.

    T2K Experiment


    T2K map

    FNAL NOvA Near Detector


    FNAL/NOvA experiment map

    Understanding neutrino oscillations at higher energies tests systematic uncertainties but also places constraints on different new physics models in the neutrino sector.

    The current measurement has improved the selection of neutrino events by a factor ten. The IceCube sensors immediately surrounding DeepCore are used as a veto against muons produced in the same atmospheric cosmic ray interactions, keeping only events that start inside the DeepCore instrumented volume.

    “The event reconstruction is a significant improvement of this analysis,” explains João Pedro Athayde Marcondes de André, an IceCube researcher at Michigan State University (MSU) and a coleader of this analysis. “We now take into account the properties of the ice to reconstruct all types of events, even those with a substantial energy deposition at the beginning of the event, where the interaction of the incoming neutrino with the Antarctic ice takes place,” adds A. M. de André.

    “IceCube is the first experiment using atmospheric neutrinos to measure the oscillation parameters with a similar precision to long-baseline experiments,” says Joshua Hignight, also an IceCube researcher at MSU and a coleader of this work. “But we measure them in a different energy range and with different baselines,” states Hignight.

    The best fit oscillation parameters point to a maximal mixing scenario, in agreement with results from the T2K experiment and in tension with measurements from the NOvA experiment. In the maximal mixing scenario, one of the neutrino quantum states is a precise equal mix of two different flavor neutrinos. Although this could be just a coincidence, it could also be a hint to new physics.

    See the full article here .

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    ICECUBE neutrino detector

    IceCube is a particle detector at the South Pole that records the interactions of a nearly massless sub-atomic particle called the neutrino. IceCube searches for neutrinos from the most violent astrophysical sources: events like exploding stars, gamma ray bursts, and cataclysmic phenomena involving black holes and neutron stars. The IceCube telescope is a powerful tool to search for dark matter, and could reveal the new physical processes associated with the enigmatic origin of the highest energy particles in nature. In addition, exploring the background of neutrinos produced in the atmosphere, IceCube studies the neutrinos themselves; their energies far exceed those produced by accelerator beams. IceCube is the world’s largest neutrino detector, encompassing a cubic kilometer of ice.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:16 am on May 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Cosmic Rays, , U Utah led Telescope Array project   

    From Space.com: “Hotspot for Cosmic Rays: Touring the Telescope Array Project in Utah” 

    space-dot-com logo

    SPACE.com

    May 27, 2017
    Nola Taylor Redd

    1

    The scintillation detectors at the Telescope Array near Delta, Utah, are spread out across the desert to study high energy particles from space called cosmic rays. Credit: Nola Taylor Redd

    An unconventional telescope spreads across Utah’s dry Bonneville lake bed. Made up of hundreds of giant rusty detectors, the instrument studies cosmic rays, the high-energy particles that come from distant universal sources and Earth’s atmosphere.

    The Telescope Array (TA) project is made up of instruments that collect the particles produced when cosmic rays collide with charged particles in the air. The desert air makes the site ideal for this kind of work, because it’s free from the humidity that might interfere with the paths of the particles tracing cosmic rays. Nearby, a giant telescope searches the horizon for flashes of ultraviolet light, invisible to human eyes, that indicate those initial collisions as well as from the secondary particles.

    By studying the particles that cascade to Earth, scientists can learn about the energy of the original cosmic rays. Traveling through space, the cosmic rays are rapidly accelerated to energy levels millions of times higher than particles inside the Large Hadron Collider, the most powerful particle accelerator ever built.

    It’s known that some cosmic rays are accelerated by exploding stars called supernovas, and -low-energy cosmic rays are ejected from “ordinary” stars, similar to our sun, by solar flares that explode off the star’s surface. But the source of high-energy cosmic rays remains a mystery. Large, energetic structures with strong shocks, such as the active centers of galaxies, are one potential source. Learning more about the rays may help scientists uncover additional sources of cosmic rays, and shine light on the process (or processes) that accelerates them through space.

    The Telescope Array project is already off to a good start. In 2014, the project noticed that cosmic rays seemed to be in a greater cluster in the sky just south of the Big Dipper.

    “What we’re looking for are those incredibly rare events,” Julie Callahan, project coordinator at the University of Utah who works on public outreach for the TA project, told Space.com.

    In February, Callahan and I made the 2.5-hour drive from Salt Lake City to Delta, Utah, where scientists are hunting for answers to the mysteries about cosmic rays. We then ventured even farther away from civilization, making the 45-minute trek to the Telescope Array project’s Middle Drum observatory, home to the giant telescopes and surrounded by the “scintillation detectors” (SDs) that operate around-the-clock.

    The trip to nowhere

    Callahan picked me up just south of Salt Lake City for the long drive to the project. The city, nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains, doesn’t seem like a good site for night-sky observation. During the winter, Salt Lake City has what the locals refer to as “the inversion,” where the surrounding mountains allow a cap of warm air to trap pollutants in the valley, creating a long-lasting gray cover over the city and nearby suburbs. The journey to the array will take us far from this atmospheric effect, though we’ll be able to pick it out from 3 hours away.

    As Callahan fills me in on the project, the suburbs melt away to a flat, scrub-filled desert with an occasional rocky mountain poking up unexpectedly. Eventually, we reach the small town of Delta, home to the Lon and Mary Watson Cosmic Ray Center, which serves as a base of operations for the Telescope Array (TA). The small concrete-block building sits just off the road, its side yard filled with strange rusty objects. A small sign on the building reveals the TA’s purpose — hunting cosmic rays.

    2

    The Lon and Mary Watson Cosmic Ray Center in Delta, Utah, is the base of operations for the Telescope Array (TA) project, which studies powerful particles from space called cosmic rays.

    Led by the University of Utah, the Telescope Array project is composed of 28 international collaboration partners, including 19 institutes and universities from Japan. The Asian influence is obvious as I tour the site, especially in the storage room where boxes of parts and partially assembled scintillation detectors are stashed. While some of the boxes are marked in English, far more are labeled in Japanese, with no English translation, and many of the signs are also written in Japanese.

    When I walk into the center, I’m greeted by a small visitor’s area. Callahan, who arrived at her present position with an art background nearly two decades ago, helped to design the lobby’s three-wall mural, which features an illustration of the desert and sky that surround the scintillation detectors. Posters describe the work being done by scientists working on the TA project, and a comic book uses manga (a Japanese illustration style) to provide even more detail about the science going on here. The fourth wall is a homage to the nearby Topaz internment camp that imprisoned Japanese-American citizens during World War II.

    It’s through the next door, however, that the work gets done. The middle of the building is a single giant room, divided in half by a partition lined with desks and decorated with posters. A pair of scintillation detectors sits on the left side of the room, under construction. On the right side are desks covered with electronics that make up the guts of those detectors.

    Despite it being a weekday, there are only two men inside the building, doing basic custodial work. One is American, and the other speaks only Japanese. Everyone else is out in the desert at the Middle Drum facility.

    After more than a decade, the project is receiving its first major upgrade of over 100 closely positioned scintillation detectors to hunt for cosmic rays at lower energies. Known as the Telescope Array Low Energy (TALE), the project requires placing the detectors closer together. A third of the new detectors will sit a quarter-mile (400 meters) apart from each other, and another third will be spaced a third of a mile (600 m) apart from each other. With three-quarters of a mile (1,200 m) separation, the last batch will have the same distance between them as TA’s detectors. Another planned expansion, dubbed Telescope Array Times Four, will double the number of TALE detectors and quadruple the ground covered. According to Callahan, the success of the 2014 finding paved the way for the expansion by proving the project’s scientific merits.

    We pass through strips of clear plastic hang from the top of alarge opening that connects the rooms. The wide space allows a Skid-L,At the back of the building, a raised garage door opens up to the outside. In a mud-filled corral behind the building sit rows of new detectors, awaiting transport to Middle Drum.

    Over the past few months, the team has been assembling the new scintillation detectors in preparation for the upgrade. From the corral, they will be trucked to the Middle Drum site, a remote, uninhabited location 45 minutes from Delta. The final deployment will require a helicopter to deliver the detectors to their resting places, and moving the detectors to Middle Drum by truck will reduce the flight time (and subsequent cost), while keeping the helicopter noise from bothering Delta’s population.

    Helicopters are a necessity for the upgrade. The project sits on public lands where vehicles must remain on roads; even bicycles are forbidden to go off-road. The team has occasionally rented horses to visit multiple scintillation detectors, but most of the time, they park on the nearest road and hike in to make checkups or repairs.

    As I squish through the corral’s thick mud, I’m greeted not by shiny new detectors but by rusted hunks of metal. The rust is a deliberate effort to avoid distracting the Air Force pilots that often fly over the desert, Callahan said. The boxes look like rusted hospital bed frames; Callahan said her husband compares them to pingpong tables.

    The heart of the scintillation detector lies within the box on top of the frame. Two panels cover the box, and require several people — and a special grip — to open them. Inside sit two layers of a plexiglass-like acrylic material doped with a molecule that creates ultraviolet light when hit by a charged particle from a shower of particles created by a cosmic-ray collision in the atmosphere. Rows of fiber-optic cables inside of grooves gather the light and amplify the signal, which is sent back to the electronic portion of the detector. Antennae broadcast the data back to the Cosmic Ray Center for the scientists to observe. On top of the frame, solar panels power the whole system. Small wires above them keep the local birds, which include various raptors such as golden eagles, from sitting on the detector and pooping on the panels.

    The scintillation detectors don’t sit in the corral for long after I arrive. I watch as a batch of them are loaded two-high and three-wide onto a trailer and carried out to the Middle Drum site. It took two days to transport all of the TALE detectors.

    At Middle Drum, a local contractor and his team used a crane to lift the detectors from the truck and line them along the roadside. The following week, helicopters will arrive to carry them to their final homes in the desert.
    ‘We could melt glass’

    While the scintillation detectors will operate in the desert every hour of every day, the optical instruments at Middle Drum function only on clear nights with no moon. Two large buildings house the telescopes. The first building is home to the Telescope Array fluorescence telescope, which targets the horizon. The telescope’s mirrors resemble those of a giant optical telescope designed to study distant stars, but this instrument is designed to look for ultraviolet light created by atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere when they interact with cosmic rays.

    In the second, taller building, the TALE telescopes target higher skies than their TA counterparts. Although the cosmic rays TALE will study still fall in the high-energy realm, they are less energetic than those identified by TA. The decreased energy means the showers end higher in the atmosphere, so TALE’s telescopes peer above the horizon, looking for those faint ultraviolet flashes that occur when the cosmic rays collide with particles in the atmosphere.

    The pair of buildings at Middle Drum tower over the desert, with exterior automatic doors stretching about 20 feet high, with only a few feet to the roof. TALE’s telescopes point higher into the atmosphere than TA’s, requiring greater height for the doorways through which they peer.

    The two massive buildings are sealed tight. We pass through an office area where someone sits to monitor the fluorescence telescopes. Unlike the scintillation detectors, which aren’t affected by light, the fluorescence telescopes are sealed off from sunlight during the daylight hours, because sunlight can permanently damage the mirrors. A sign on the door reminds us of the danger direct sunlight has for the instruments, and includes the image of a person having their face melted in the movie “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.” This light sensitivity is so extreme, a sign on the road to the site requests that headlights be turned off and that flashlights be used with a red filter.

    Each telescope consists of four round optical mirrors combined in a cloverleaf pattern. When the garage doors open on clear nights, the 3-inch mirrors collect light and focus it on a collection of 256 photomultiplier tubes. The channeled light should reveal any flashes on the horizon from cosmic rays. Like a powerful magnifying glass, it results in a very focused beam of light.

    “We could melt glass with this thing,” said Robert Cady, an assistant research professor at the University of Utah, who is working on the experiment.

    Whenever the telescopes are operating, two people must be on site in case there’s a problem. (With the telescope sitting in the middle of nowhere, safety concerns mean that no one is permitted to be at the site alone.) Most of the time, the work for those two employees is boring, Cady said, but their presence is necessary to protect the instruments.

    “When something goes wrong, it goes really badly wrong,” he said.

    Among other things, the folks at the site must check the enormous garage doors to make certain they shut completely at the end of a run. If a mechanical issue keeps them from closing, each mirror must be covered. The tool of choice is king-size fitted sheets, which, Cady said, work perfectly.

    Once or twice a year, the mirrors are washed to remove any accumulated dust, but the work must be done carefully to avoid scraping off the aluminum cover, Cady said.

    Each cloverleaf sits on a metal frame, with its computer controls in a locker behind it. Everything in the giant warehouse is raised off the floor, thanks to lessons learned from a previous project, which suffered a rodent problem.

    “Rats love to chew cables,” Cady said. “We keep everything rat-proof, off the ground.”

    Hard to replace

    Even though they’re out in the middle of a desert, a few of the scintillation detectors have had to be replaced. A wet winter several years ago resulted in flooding, and several of the detectors were immersed. Cady and a colleague went out in a kayak to check on the instruments, and some had only their antenna sticking above the water. Those were trashed, and now sit in the corral. Another one was damaged in an auto accident when a motorist unaffiliated with the project crashed into it.

    Simple exterior repairs can be made to the scintillation detectors in the field, but major repairs require them being taken back to Delta. There, the team can repair or replace major components in controlled conditions, without having to haul everything out to the middle of the desert.

    While the detectors are inexpensive to replicate, the mirrors are another story. According to Cady, the equipment and space used to fabricate them no longer exists. So, while the mirrors themselves cost only a few thousand dollars, he estimated it would take more than $100,000 to get set up to build more. Fortunately, the project has 30 to 40 more mirrors in storage in Salt Lake City.

    According to Cady, the biggest emergency event came at the beginning of the project, when three members of the team flipped their pickup truck in the desert. The helicopter that was placing the detectors carried the three into town, where an ambulance transported them to the hospital. All three survived.

    Other problems include occasional wind damage to the detectors. Far more likely is that one of the team members will wind up stuck in the desert due to car trouble.

    “We have the local mechanic on speed dial,” Cady said.

    Callahan often interacts with the people in the county, making sure they have an idea of what the giant array is doing. She sets up a booth at the state fair every year and welcomes the opportunity to share details with anyone who is interested in the Cosmic Ray Center.

    The hunt for cosmic rays requires a location with a thin, dry atmosphere where secondary particles can travel easily to the detectors, which usually means deserts at high altitudes. Similar sites have been set up in Mexico, South America and Antarctica. There have also been cosmic-ray detectors on the International Space Station, which collect the actual cosmic rays and not secondary particle showers. Among these, the Telescope Array has perhaps the best location, only 3 hours south of Salt Lake City’s airport, Callahan said. In addition, she’s grateful for the support from Delta’s community.

    “There are only a few places in the world where you can do this kind of work,” she said.

    See the full article here .

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