Cosmic Ray Detector

Cosmic rays are the highest-energy particles in nature. Mostly protons, they reach energies more than a million times higher than that achieved at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Produced by something in the universe, when a cosmic ray hits the top of the atmosphere, it generates a huge ‘extensive air shower’ (EAS) of secondary particles, some of which reach ground level. This gives off a burst of radio-waves lasting less than a microsecond, allowing radio telescopes operating at the highest time resolution to study these rare particles. The Murchison Widefield Array in outback Western Australia aims to detect these bursts of radio-wave radiation.

Particle detectors are being developed at the University of Manchester, UK, in order to identify EAS and trigger radio observations. A prototype detector has been recently deployed in November 2018 – it will now be extensively tested to ensure its survivability in the harsh desert climate. This will pave the way for a future, expanded experiment with the MWA, and SKA1-low.

Lead investigators of this project are Dr Clancy James and Prof. Steven Tingay (Curtin University, Australia), Dr Justin Bray (The University of Manchester, UK), Prof. Ron Ekers (CSIRO Astronomy and Space Sciences and Curtin University), and A/Prof Tim Huege (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany, and Free University Brussels, Belgium).

This project is a partnership between Curtin University (Australia), The University of Manchester (UK), the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), and the Karlsruhe Shower Core and Array Detector (KASCADE)-Grande Collaboration. The prototype particle detector has been developed under the auspices of the SKA’s High Energy Cosmic Particles Focus Group, and deployed with the assistance of the Murchison Widefield Array collaboration.