Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Observing ultrahigh-energy cosmic particles

Ultrahigh-energy cosmic particles are an intriguing puzzle in high-energy physics. They are extremely rare—only 11 have been observed in 13 years of searching. No one knows where they come from, or how they could have that much energy left over after the long journey through intergalactic and interstellar space.

RIKEN, one of Japan’s largest research organisations is planning to observe them on board the International Space Station. To observe these rare phenomena, a telescope with an extremely wide field of view is needed. Instead of looking out into space like a conventional telescope, the telescope will look down at the Earth from space, searching for streaks of ultraviolet fluorescence and Cerenkov radiation, which cosmic particles produce when they interact with the Earth's atmosphere.
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