PhD researcher seeks origin of cosmic rays

Oct 23, 2012

As cosmic ray particles penetrate our atmosphere, they collide with air molecules and produce new high-energy particles. These particles, in turn, are involved in further collisions. The whole process is known as an air shower. "People have been researching cosmic rays for a century now, and we still don't know much about the origin of these high-energy particles," says David Fokkema, who recently obtained his PhD at the University of Twente. He defended his PhD thesis about cosmic rays on 17 October.

Dr Fokkema's PhD research was carried out in the context of the HiSPARC science and outreach project (HiSPARC is a project in which secondary schools join academic institutions to create an extensive network with the aim of measuring extremely high energy cosmic rays). Fokkema's research focused on measuring the direction of these "air showers". Most of the detectors used for this purpose were installed at secondary schools. These measurements provide information about the sources of cosmic rays.

Fokkema's method is based on observed differences in the time at which particles arrive. These differences arise when the strike the atmosphere at an angle, rather than perpendicularly. However, there are uncertainties in the measurement of the arrival times. These are caused by the thickness of the shower front, the geometry of the detectors and other experimental effects. These uncertainties have been studied, to determine their exact impact on the result. "The methods developed in this PhD thesis were first verified in simulations. I then analysed data from a HiSPARC station that we installed at KASCADE, in Karlsruhe, Germany. The KASCADE experiment (which covers an area of 200m × 200m) provided us with an independent measurement of the direction of the air shower. Given its high level of accuracy, the HiSPARC station yielded some very useful results."

There are two sides to HiSPARC. On the one hand, it is a traditional research group consisting of researchers, Master's students, and undergraduates. However, this project is also intended to give secondary school students an opportunity to help with the experiment and to take part in scientific research.

Explore further: Quest for extraterrestrial life not over, experts say

More information: The PhD thesis entitled: "The HiSPARC cosmic ray experiment. Data acquisition and reconstruction of shower direction" is available for inspection.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists Prove Cosmic Rays Are Made of Protons

Jul 01, 2010

Cosmic rays are made of protons, scientists found as they used a vast array of telescopes arranged across the Utah desert. Each telescope in the 67-unit arrangement sees the sky with a multifaceted eye. It’s ...

Messengers from the Extreme Universe

Nov 10, 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 ...

Antarctic "Telescopes" Look for Cosmic Rays

Feb 08, 2005

Working in the harsh conditions of Antarctica, Maryland researchers are creating new ways of detecting cosmic rays, high energy particles that bombard the Earth from beyond our solar system.

100 years of cosmic rays mystery

Aug 01, 2012

As physicists gather in early August to celebrate a century since the initial discovery of cosmic rays, Alan Watson, emeritus professor of physics at the University of Leeds, explains how physicists have gradually revealed ...

Recommended for you

Quest for extraterrestrial life not over, experts say

Apr 18, 2014

The discovery of an Earth-sized planet in the "habitable" zone of a distant star, though exciting, is still a long way from pointing to the existence of extraterrestrial life, experts said Friday. ...

Continents may be a key feature of Super-Earths

Apr 18, 2014

Huge Earth-like planets that have both continents and oceans may be better at harboring extraterrestrial life than those that are water-only worlds. A new study gives hope for the possibility that many super-Earth ...

Exoplanets soon to gleam in the eye of NESSI

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —The New Mexico Exoplanet Spectroscopic Survey Instrument (NESSI) will soon get its first "taste" of exoplanets, helping astronomers decipher their chemical composition. Exoplanets are planets ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Another fireball explodes over Russia

Why does Russia seem to get so many bright meteors? Well at 6.6 million square miles it's by far the largest country in the world plus, with dashboard-mounted cameras being so commonplace (partly to help ...

ISEE-3 comes to visit Earth

(Phys.org) —It launched in 1978. It was the first satellite to study the constant flow of solar wind streaming toward Earth from a stable orbit point between our planet and the sun known as the Lagrangian ...

NASA's MMS observatories stacked for testing

(Phys.org) —Engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., accomplished another first. Using a large overhead crane, they mated two Magnetospheric Multiscale, or MMS, observatories – ...