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The first Argentine cosmic ray detector will be installed in Antarctica

cosmic rays these are particles that come from space and constantly bombard the Earth from all sides. Most of these particles are atomic or electron nuclei. Some of them are more energetic than any other particle observed in nature.

Since its birth, more than 4,600 million years ago, the Earth has been constantly bombarded by them. Ultraenergy cosmic rays travel at a speed close to the speed of light, and have hundreds of millions of times more energy than particles produced by any accelerator in the world.

Argentina has been a leader in this type of research, thanks to the work of the Pierre Auger Observatory in Mendoza for several years. But now the challenge is to measure them in one of the most hostile places on the planet: Antarctic.

Thus, a group of Argentine scientists has developed the first national Antarctic detector of these cosmic rays, which will seek to understand the origin of these energy emissions and learn a little more to prevent disruptions in geolocation systems and satellites.

In January and February it will be installed at the Marambio base. "Neurus"A new cosmic ray detector, developed by CONICET researchers at the Institute of Astronomy and Space Physics, together with colleagues from the Argentine Antarctic Institute and the departments of the Atmospheric and Oceanographic Sciences and Physics of UBA.

“We are interested in understanding the flux of cosmic rays, their variability and their relationship with solar wind conditions and solar activity,” explains Dr. Sergio Dassault, Principal Researcher at the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET) at the Institute of Astronomy and Space Physics (IAFE , CONICET-UBA) and a permanent professor at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) in the faculties of Atmospheric and Oceanographic Sciences and Physics, who heads the project of a particle detector developed in full. in the IAFE.

The group includes Adriana Gulisano of the Argentine Antarctic Institute and Sergio Dassot, both physicists, along with Omar Areso, an expert in electronics and mechanics and support staff at the IAFE, and Matias Pereira, a computer expert and support staff at the IAFE. At the first stage, they were assisted by researchers from the Bariloche Atomic Center, participating in the Pierre Auger Observatory.

How the detector will work

This project was created within the framework of the Latin American collaboration called LAGO, since the English-speaking Latin American giant observatory, which is a by-product of the Pierre Auger observatory, is an abbreviation. It uses the same technology as in surface detectors: a container filled with water, and when a relativistic particle with an electric charge passes, it is flooded with light due to the effect called Cherenkov radiation in water. This light is detected using a signal amplifier, a photomultiplier that manages to increase this number of photons and convert it into an electronic signal, which we can then receive and store in the computer.

It should be noted that the installation of the cosmic ray detector was created in the framework of a joint project with the Argentine Antarctic Institute, which made a significant contribution to the infrastructure and transport of researchers.

Installing this equipment, which weighs more than one ton and occupies 2 m², has the advantage in the Antarctic that, due to the geomagnetic field, charged cosmic particles more easily enter Earth’s space than higher currents are observed and may have more information in high latitudes than in equatorial regions.

One of the main advantages that the team has over others is that it can distinguish energy, not only count and characterize how many particles per unit area per unit of time reaches the Earth’s surface, but also they can classify energy zones. “This will allow us to make significant progress in knowledge of what is known today,” says Dassault.

Information measured by the detector is stored locally on several large-capacity hard disks, but at the same time the synthesis of this data, which the computer program performs, will be transmitted in real time to the IAFE servers and provided to the community in real time.

“The applications of this detector are numerous, in particular, we conduct research in the field of basic sciences together with the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanographic Sciences of the UBA Department of Exact and Natural Sciences.” We gave a characteristic of the effect that It is a cascade of particles that develops from primary cosmic rays, which come from space. Finally, we see streams of secondary particles. On the other hand, data that should be in real time is very important for monitoring the conditions of space meteorology, ”the expert stressed.

“This is due to space weather, and this monitoring, which we are going to report from Argentina, will be important to determine whether radiation levels are reasonable or very high, and whether decisions need to be made when changing flight routes or canceling flights. for example, Polar, says an Argentine physicist who holds a doctoral degree from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and is a member of the Space Weather expert group of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

In Argentina, there are several satellites, and space weather conditions can also affect the damage they experience as a result of increased radiation levels.

“Then the monitoring, which we are going to carry out in real time in Antarctica, will help to characterize these conditions,” says Dassault, adding: “We are very excited because we are going to install and perform the first measurements of a device that was fully developed in Argentina in the Latin American framework ".

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