Charged particle astronomy and high energy particle physics with the Pierre Auger Observatory


  • Call:

    IDPASC Portugal - PHD Programme 2015

  • Academic Year:

    2015 / 2016

  • Domains:

    Experimental Particle Physics | Astroparticle Physics

  • Supervisor:

    Lorenzo Cazon

  • Co-Supervisor:

    Mário Pimenta

  • Institution:

    Instituto Superior Técnico

  • Host Institution:

    Laboratório de Instrumentação e Física Experimental de Partículas

  • Abstract:

    Ultra High Energy Cosmic rays are the most energetic particles known so far. They exceed by several orders of magnitude the energies achieved at LHC, and are produced in the most violent places of the cosmos. But very little is known about their true nature and how they achieve this extraordinary energy. The sources of the UHECR have remained in mystery for decades. The acceleration astrophysical scenarios point to the most violent phenomena in nature, like Active Galactic Nuclei or Gamma Ray Bursts. The Pierre Auger Observatory is the largest tacitly ever built to study cosmic rays. It is using 1600 water Cerenkov detectors covering an area of 3600 km2 to sample the shower particles when they reach ground. Those detectors measure the energy deposited by charged particles when releasing Cerenkov light in water. In addition to that, an optical telescope picking up ultraviolet light -which is produced by fluorescence of the nitrogen molecules excited by the cascade particles can actually see the longitudinal development of the shower whereas it crosses the atmosphere. The observatory is also to deploy a series of complementary detectors that include: antennas for radio detection, a scintillator on top of the Cerenkov tanks, a set of buried scintillators (AMIGA), and an engineering of segmented RPCs beneath the Cerenkov tanks (MARTA engineering array). The student will become a full member of the collaboration, and it is expected to take an active role in the experiment in any of the several tasks of the experiment ranging from: - detectors and performance (calibration, operations and installation/deployment), - analysis foundations (data analysis, recostructions algorithm creation, computing) - atomic mass composition (which includes photons and neutrinos) , hadronic interactions, astrophysical scenarios and arrival directions (which involve data analysis, physics interpretation, and physics model building). He or she will be also expected to make field trips to the Observatory site, in the Argentinian city of Malargue, near the Andes. The student is expected lead and coauthor papers in leading journals. The Pierre Auger Observatory is among the most cited collaborations in the field, and has been cover of the Science magazine in 2007. Thus, the exposure and impact of a PhD thesis results are ensured. In addition, the work of the student has a quick starting point of dissemination, as the collaboration itself is a vast audience of more than 500 scientist around the world. This field demands the confluence of scientists from interdisciplinary fields, and thus the observatory has turned an excellent place to study from physics of the atmosphere, electromagnetism (for instance, elves, lightning formation), earthquakes, solar physics, and many other. Experimental astrophysics is an expanding field with many international and Portuguese career opportunities to pursue fundamental science. Nonetheless, this project offers an unique opportunity for profiles more focused in society and the competitive market beyond fundamental science. After the completion of this thesis, the student will gain skills which includes: programming, analytic thinking, mathematics, statistics and large data handling, which might be of special interest in Big Data projects. The student can also have direct experience with cutting edge technologies ranging from electronics, radio-antennas, communications, detectors, photonics, optics, lasers, LIDAR operations, media and multimedia applications (through outreach activities) and many other.