Mines students build large cosmic ray detector
GOLDEN, Colo., April 30, 2010 – A team of three Mines physics undergraduate students, led by professor Fred Sarazin and electronic specialist Orlen Wolf, recently completed the assembly and deployment of a large cosmic-ray detector.
The detector, two large photomultiplier tubes overlooking a 3,000-gallon tank of pure water, is almost an exact replica of one of the 1,600 surface detectors or “tanks” used to measure the properties of ultra high energy cosmic ray showers at the Pierre Auger Observatory in Malargüe, Argentina.
The team, composed of Keri Kuhn, Mark Malinowski and Shay Robinson, observed evidence of cosmic-ray muons interacting with the water in the tank, along with a few rare events where muons appeared to decay while still in the tank.
The installation of this tank at Mines is part of an ongoing research and development effort in Colorado, which could lead to the construction of “Auger North”, the northern hemisphere site of the Pierre Auger Observatory.
In the next few months, 10 more tanks will arrive at Mines to be assembled. They will then be deployed south of Lamar, Colo., to form a test-array.
Beginning next spring, the Mines tank will be used by physics majors to measure the muon lifetime as part of the advanced laboratory II class.
Two other physics faculty, John Scales and Lawrence Wiencke, also are involved in the Auger North effort. Scales and a Mines student are developing hardware for radio frequency communication. Wiencke and a large team of physics undergraduates are measuring the properties of the atmosphere over the future observatory site using an atmospheric monitoring telescope also developed and assembled at Mines.
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