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Title: Mass composition studies of Ultra High Energy cosmic rays through the measurement of the Muon Production Depths at the Pierre Auger Observatory

The Pierre Auger Observatory (Auger) in Argentina studies Ultra High Energy Cosmic Rays (UHECRs) physics. The flux of cosmic rays at these energies (above 1018 eV) is very low (less than 100 particle/km2-year) and UHECR properties must be inferred from the measurements of the secondary particles that the cosmic ray primary produces in the atmosphere. These particles cascades are called Extensive Air Showers (EAS) and can be studied at ground by deploying detectors covering large areas. The EAS physics is complex, and the properties of secondary particles depend strongly on the first interaction, which takes place at an energy beyond the ones reached at accelerators. As a consequence, the analysis of UHECRs is subject to large uncertainties and hence many of their properties, in particular their composition, are still unclear. Two complementary techniques are used at Auger to detect EAS initiated by UHE- CRs: a 3000 km2 surface detector (SD) array of water Cherenkov tanks which samples particles at ground level and fluorescence detectors (FD) which collect the ultraviolet light emitted by the de-excitation of nitrogen nuclei in the atmosphere, and can operate only in clear, moonless nights. Auger is the largest cosmic rays detector ever built and it providesmore » high-quality data together with unprecedented statistics. The main goal of this thesis is the measurement of UHECR mass composition using data from the SD of the Pierre Auger Observatory. Measuring the cosmic ray composition at the highest energies is of fundamental importance from the astrophysical point of view, since it could discriminate between different scenarios of origin and propagation of cosmic rays. Moreover, mass composition studies are of utmost importance for particle physics. As a matter of fact, knowing the composition helps in exploring the hadronic interactions at ultra-high energies, inaccessible to present accelerator experiments.« less
  1. Univ. of Milan (Italy); Paris Diderot Univ. (France)
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Research Org:
Fermi National Accelerator Lab. (FNAL), Batavia, IL (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), High Energy Physics (HEP) (SC-25)
Country of Publication:
United States