Sunteți pe pagina 1din 8

Jeffrey Rable

David Weiss
2 December 2016
Report 2: Summary of Spencer Kleins Colloquium Talk
The study of cosmic radiation has led to a number of important
discoveries in physics over the past century and modern experiments like the
Pierre-Auger Observatory (PAO) remain fruitful today. Using a combination of
atmospheric fluorescence and Cherenkov radiation, the PAO measured the
proton-proton interaction cross-section at energies up to 141Tev and
provided a detailed look at incoming air showers produced by cosmic rays.
Another modern experiment, IceCube, detects Cherenkov radiation from
particles passing through 1km3 of ice. By measuring Cherenkov radiation,
IceCube has found the neutrino interaction cross-section at up to 1PeV and
has placed limits on the sterile neutrino, a potential particle lying beyond the
Standard Model. In the future, larger and more sensitive experiments will
allow for further refinement of existing measurements while allowing us to
probe even more exotic physics.
In the early 20th century, physicists believed that background radiation
came from the earth itself. However, in 1912, Victor Hess showed that it
actually came from the sky by using a balloon, he measured the

background radiation at varying altitudes to find that, as one went higher

into the atmosphere, the background increased. Ultimately, this experiment
won him the Nobel Prize in 1932, and has provided physicists with an
interesting phenomenon that, over a century later, is still not fully
Later experiments provided evidence that multiple components
compose cosmic radiation. Robert Millikan discovered the first evidence of
muons by lowering a detector into water. One component of the radiation
rapidly attenuated with increasing depth, while another, more penetrating
component (later found to be the muon) passed much further into the water.
Later, cosmic radiation led to the discovery of another type of particle, the
charm hadron. These hadrons were discovered through the use of cloud
chambers, detectors composed of photosensitive particles suspended in
gelatin. As a particle passes through the chamber, the chamber medium
ionizes, revealing the track of the radiation components [1].
Bursts of cosmic radiation hit the atmosphere as a single proton or
heavier nucleus far more energetic than that which could be produced by a
terrestrial particle accelerator. Though the source of these particles is
currently unknown, there are multiple possible candidates, including the
remnants of supernovae.

The single, highly energetic

particles arriving at the atmosphere
produce showers of charged
particles raining down through the
atmosphere via a series of chain
reactions. Initially, when the particle
collides with the atmosphere, it
produces a number of pions, kaons,
and nucleons. These particles then
proceed to interact with one another
in multiple ways, producing more

FIG. 1. This figure shows the

development of an air shower
produced by a proton entering the
atmosphere [S. Klein (unpublished)].

hadrons, or, if they have low enough

energy, muons and neutrinos. The

neutral pion, unlike the other hadrons produced, decays into photons shortly
after creation, which in turn leads to the production of positrons and
electrons. These positrons and electrons then proceed to create
Bremsstrahlung radiation. Thus, as the particle shower progresses towards
the surface of the earth, more and more of the energy in the particle shower
converts into electromagnetic energy. Ultimately, the shower becomes fully
developed when the individual particles comprising it lose so much energy
that they cannot produce any more particles.



The Pierre Auger Observatory, located in Argentina, detects electrons,
positrons, photons, and muons from cosmic ray showers. One half of the
experiment is composed of 1600 3.6m diameter tanks full of water located
1.5km apart, covering a total surface area of 3000km2. As particles pass
through the water in the tanks moving faster than the speed of light in the
water, they produce Cherenkov radiation, the light equivalent of a sonic
boom. Sensitive photodetectors then pick up the resulting light and record
the data from it. The amplitudes of the events give the energy of the
incoming particles, while the timing of the event provides their direction.
The second half of the detector measures the nitrogen fluorescence
created in the atmosphere by the progression of each air shower. This part of
the detector, composed of 24 cameras at four sites, measures the number of
particles at each depth, as well as the total energy and direction of the
incoming air shower.
Through the Pierre Auger observatorys data, one can calculate the
proton-air cross section. In events caused by incoming protons, the
variations in the depth Xmax at which the shower produces the largest number
of particles are mainly caused by the depth of the first interaction between
the particle and air. By selecting the most deeply penetrating events, which
removes events caused by nucleons heavier than protons, one can
accurately calculate the cross section. This calculation can be further

extrapolated to find the proton-proton cross section at energies five times

greater than that which could be measured by the LHC.
B. IceCube
Out of the particles produced by air showers, the neutrino, which
interacts only via the weak force, provides some of the lowest background
noise. However, because of the rarity of neutrino interactions, incredibly
large, sensitive detectors are required to pick up enough events to acquire
useful data. Because of the impracticality of building a 1km3 or larger
detector from scratch, to produce a feasible experiment, some natural
medium must be used. IceCube, a neutrino and muon detector, uses
Antarctic ice as this medium.

IceCube contains 80 strings, each with 60 photomultiplier tubes (PMTs),

suspended below the surface of a 125m triangular grid in the ice. The PMTs
detect neutrinos by measuring the Cherenkov radiation produced by the
particles created as neutrinos interact with the detector medium. Each
individual string of photodetectors extends 2450m under the ice, giving the
entire experiment a total volume of 1km3. The experiment also contains two
additional components, Deep Core and IceTop. Deep Core contains another
six strings suspended below the ice, also with 60 optical sensors each,
designed to detect lower energy events, while IceTop acts as a surface air
shower array composed of 162 water tanks at an altitude of 2385m (working
through detection of Cherenkov radiation like the PAO).
data from
opens a
number of
FIG. 2. A diagram of IceCube showing the structure and the individual
components of the detector. Also shown is AMANDA, which acted as an early
prototype for IceCube and is still located in the ice [S. Klein (unpublished)].

fundamental neutrino physics. Some of these possibilities include the

measurement of the neutrino-nucleon cross section, measurement of the
neutrino inelasticity distribution, measurement of neutrino oscillations,
detection of sterile neutrinos, detection of non-standard neutrino
interactions, and the detection of neutrino production of particle pairs. Thus
far, IceCube has measured the neutrino-nucleon cross section at up to 1 PeV
and ruled out many of the previously proposed energy-mixing angle
distributions for sterile neutrinos.
IceCube and IceTop also allow for the analysis of cosmic radiation. The
former can detect high energy muons, which typically come from the earliest
interactions between the incoming radiation and the atmosphere, while the
latter can detect lower energy muons and surface energy of the incoming
ray. These datasets allow for analysis of the composition of cosmic radiation
and the study of the air showers they produce.
Moving forward, increasingly large, denser detectors will allow for more
sensitive measurements. The second generation of the IceCube experiment,
IceCube2, will have a larger 10Km3 volume, and another modification, PINGU,
will create a denser array of sensors inside the detector. IceCube2 will enable
more sensitive neutrino cross-section measurements, while PINGU will lower
the neutrino energy detection threshold. Currently, plans are also being
formulated for a 100km3 detector, which would allow for such sensitive

measurements of the neutrino cross section that many potential new physics
could be explored. Early prototypes for these experiments, such as ARIANNA,
which would detect Cherenkov radiation at radio wave frequencies, are
already being tested.
IV. Conclusion
Through the detection of Cherenkov radiation produced by cosmic
radiation and neutrinos, one can glean a deep look into many aspects of
fundamental physics and explore (or rule out) new physics. The Pierre-Auger
Observatory, which detects air showers from cosmic radiation, and IceCube,
which primarily detects neutrinos, are two such experiments. So far, data
from these detectors has allowed for the measurement of various particle
cross sections and provided insight into the composition of incoming cosmic
rays. IceCubes data has also ruled out many possibilities for sterile
neutrinos, showing the potential of these detectors to support or disprove
potential physics beyond the standard model. Moving forward, the creation
of new, more sensitive detectors will allow for the further analyses of these
phenomena, as well as new phenomena.
[1] T. Kawamura, Developments in the Emulsion Technique, Nuclear Phys. B
85 (2000) 105-110