60 second science: Cosmic rays


Alan Watson walks past a small wooden shed in the vast expanse of moorland, Haverah Park

Cosmic rays are the nuclei of the common elements that have been accelerated to high energies somewhere in the universe.

They’re continuously bombarding our atmosphere.

We’ve found a correlation with active galactic nuclei which are very, very powerful galaxies with massive black holes at their centre.

It looks as if Centaurus A which is a powerful radio galaxy only 4 mega-parsecs away from us may be the source of a lot of our high-energy particles.

The Auger collaboration has around 400 members.

The key features are large tanks of water and there are four fluorescence detectors which overlook the water-Cerenkov detectors. When its dark and there’s no moon we get coincidences between the two and this allows us to make some very very accurate measurements.

The great thing about working in cosmic rays is that you have to know some particle physics, you have to know some astrophysics, you have to know a lot about some quite smart technologies.

Putting all those together has been really great.

Further reading