Making the Moon an Enormous Detector of Cosmic Rays

Posted by K R on

About once a century on any given square kilometer of Earth, a cosmic ray hits with mind-boggling intensity. The teeny tiny subatomic particle from space comes careening in with more than 10 million times the energy of particles shot out by the LHC. Where do these ultrahigh energy cosmic rays come from? Astronomers have a plan to find out, using the moon and a massive new radio telescope array. The $1.5 billion array, which is in development now, is so massive that doesn't fit on one continent. Spread out over thousands of miles across Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa will be thousands of radio telescopes that, together, add up to the Square Kilometer Array. The total collecting area of the array is one million square meters, or one square kilometer, hence its name. When it's completed in 2015, it will be the world's biggest and most sensitive radio telescope. But what about the moon? Here's where things get interesting. In a paper recently posted to ArXiv, a group of astronomers detail how the entire moon can be turned into an instrument for studying the mysterious cosmic rays. That's because upon impact, cosmic rays generate a cascade of secondary particles, which can be seen as nanosecond burst of radio waves. By analyzing these radio waves, we might figure out where the rays are coming from. More via Gizmodo

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