Shortly moon to be turned into cosmic ray detector

Shortly moon to be turned into cosmic ray detector
Highlights

A new research has revealed that scientists will try to turn the Moon into a giant particle detector to help understand the origin of Ultra-High-Energy (UHE) cosmic rays.

London: A new research has revealed that scientists will try to turn the Moon into a giant particle detector to help understand the origin of Ultra-High-Energy (UHE) cosmic rays.

Physicists detect the UHE cosmic rays, which are the most energetic particles in the Universe, on Earth at a rate of less than one particle per square kilometre per century.

Lead author Justin Bray from the University of Southampton is of a proposal to use the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), set to become the largest and most sensitive radio telescope in the world, to detect vastly more UHE cosmic rays by using the Moon as a giant cosmic ray detector.

On Earth, physicists detect these high-energy particles when they hit the upper atmosphere triggering a cascade of secondary particles that generate a short and faint burst of radio waves only a few nanoseconds long and it is this signal that astronomers hope to pick up from the Moon, but as these signals are so short and faint no radio telescope on Earth is currently capable of picking them up.

With its large collecting area and high sensitivity, the SKA will be able to detect these signals using the visible lunar surface - millions of square kilometres - giving the researchers access to more data about UHE cosmic rays than they have ever had before.

The current largest detector on Earth is the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina that covers an area of 3,000 square kilometres, about the size Luxembourg. The SKA will be more than 10 times larger (33,0000 square kilometres) and researchers hope to detect around 165 UHE cosmic rays a year from the Moon compared to the 15-a-year currently observed.

Bray added that cosmic rays at these energies are so rare that one needs an enormous detector to collect a significant number of them, but the moon dwarfs any particle detector that has been built so far and if this works, it should give the best chance yet to figure out where they're coming from.

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