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Title: Measurement of the Muon Atmospheric Production Depth with the Water Cherenkov Detectors of the Pierre Auger Observatory

Ultra-high-energy cosmic rays (UHECR) are particles of uncertain origin and composition, with energies above 1 EeV (1018 eV or 0.16 J). The measured flux of UHECR is a steeply decreasing function of energy. The largest and most sensitive apparatus built to date to record and study cosmic ray Extensive Air Showers (EAS) is the Pierre Auger Observatory. The Pierre Auger Observatory has produced the largest and finest amount of data ever collected for UHECR. A broad physics program is being carried out covering all relevant topics of the field. Among them, one of the most interesting is the problem related to the estimation of the mass composition of cosmic rays in this energy range. Currently the best measurements of mass are those obtained by studying the longitudinal development of the electromagnetic part of the EAS with the Fluorescence Detector. However, the collected statistics is small, specially at energies above several tens of EeV. Although less precise, the volume of data gathered with the Surface Detector is nearly a factor ten larger than the fluorescence data. So new ways to study composition with data collected at the ground are under investigation. The subject of this thesis follows one of those newmore » lines of research. Using preferentially the time information associated with the muons that reach the ground, we try to build observables related to the composition of the primaries that initiated the EAS. A simple phenomenological model relates the arrival times with the depths in the atmosphere where muons are produced. The experimental confirmation that the distributions of muon production depths (MPD) correlate with the mass of the primary particle has opened the way to a variety of studies, of which this thesis is a continuation, with the aim of enlarging and improving its range of applicability. We revisit the phenomenological model which is at the root of the analysis and discuss a new way to improve some aspects of the model. We carry out a thorough revision of the original analysis with the aim of understanding the different contributions to the total bias and resolution when building MPDs on an event-by-event basis. We focus on an alternative way to build MPDs by considering average MPDs for ensembles of air-showers, with the aim of enlarging the range of applicability of this kind of analysis. Finally, we analyze how different improvements in the Surface Detector electronics and its internal configuration affect the resolution of the MPD. We conclude by summarizing the main results and discussing potential ways to improve MPD-based mass composition studies.« less
  1. Univ. of Granada (Spain)
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Research Org:
Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (FNAL), Batavia, IL (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), High Energy Physics (HEP) (SC-25)
Country of Publication:
United States