The Exploration of Cosmic Rays and the Expertise of Scintillators

Carly Rowe, Megan Kocher & Westly Roth, “The Exploration of Cosmic Rays and the Expertise of Scintillators”

Using a scintillator in order to accurately determine the number of high energy particles per time related to the altitude of the atmosphere. Cosmic rays are high energy (GeV/nuclei range) particles that travel at relativistic speeds (near the speed of light). The particles ranging from 1 GeV to 10 GeV originate from the sun, the particles ranging from 10 GeV to 106 GeV originate from high energy bodies in our galaxy such as supernovas and pulsars. These particles are important to understand because they are one of the most threatening phenomena in space, for they threaten the life of equipment and astronauts. In addition, building cheaper detectors will aid in future studies in pulsars and supernovas from our location in the galaxy. Furthermore, the increasing exposure will narrow down our understanding of solar wind emissions. High energy particles are regularly invisible requiring special detection equipment. Scintillators are currently the most common way to detect high energy particles; a scintillator is generally a clear plastic or crystal. High energy particles enter the scintillator at relativistic speeds and the particle loses energy due to resistance via obstruction. As the particle continues through the scintillator energy is transferred to the atoms in the scintillator through laws of quantum physics. The energy gained by the scintillator is emitted as photons. When the photon reaches the detector, they are then counted. Along with the detections, we will be measuring time and cross referencing to altitude as recorded through Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU). From these detectors, we will be able to take our data and determine if we are able to accurately measure the number of particles with the energy, we expected them to be at a certain altitude. We have two designs currently. Our first design uses multiple scintillators and the only detection required is the number of photons detected from each scintillator. Our second design includes only one scintillator and the detector required must have a high energy resolution in order to differentiate between photos emitted from high energy particles and photons from low energy particles. The final result in our design will be dependent on budgeting.

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