Lecturer gives glimpse of cosmic ray research
A surface detector at Pierre Auger Observatory in Malargue, Argentina.
There's more than one way to study particle physics. You can use huge
man-made accelerators such as the Tevatron. Or you can rely on nature to
supply you with its tiniest constituents for research.
Tapping nature's supply of cosmic rays is one of the oldest forms of
particle physics research.
The Pierre Auger Observatory gives it a modern twist with cutting-edge
technology, including the world's largest array of detectors and solar
panels powering them used in an experiment.
Angela Olinto said the chance to find out about the birth of the universe
as well as work in a field with a long history drew her to the study of
cosmic rays and the Pierre Auger collaboration.
"The birth of particle physics is closely tied to cosmic rays," she says.
Olinto, a University of Chicago Astronomy and Astrophysics professor,
captivated an audience of about 500 people at Fermilab Feb. 27 for a lecture
on the Pierre Auger Observatory, the world's largest cosmic-ray experiment,
based in Argentina.
Cosmic rays may provide a window into exotic, undiscovered particles or
explain dark matter, the mysterious, invisible force thought to influence
the spinning of stars and hold galaxies together.
Ultimately scientists want to know the origin of cosmic rays. The Pierre
Auger Observatory project, which includes 700 scientists, 70 institutions
and 18 countries, in 2007, announced that active galactic nuclei are the
most likely source of the high-energy cosmic rays. These massive black holes
swallow gas, dust and matter from galaxies and spew out particles and
-- Kristine Crane