Monday, November 14, 2011

Ultra High Energy Cosmic Rays

Ultra High Energy Cosmic Rays hit the earth's atmosphere with energies millions of times higher than the most powerful man-made particle accelerator (the LHC). When these cosmic rays slam into the atmosphere, they create an air shower of up to billions of secondary particles which can be detected on the ground. They also generate a streak of ultraviolet light bright enough (barely) to be detected on the ground in ideal conditions. There are two amazing detector arrays: the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina; and the Telescope Array Project in Utah, which are currently collecting data using vast arrays of detectors. The recent preprint Ultra High Energy Cosmic Rays reviews the latest data gathered by these two observatories. One of the main unresolved questions is the source of these fantastically energetic particles - which particles are produced within our own Milky Way galaxy and which are extragalactic.

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