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


  • Call:

    IDPASC Portugal - PHD Programme 2019

  • Academic Year:

    2019 / 2020

  • Domain:

    Astroparticle Physics

  • Supervisor:

    Lorenzo Cazon

  • Co-Supervisor:

    Ruben Conceição

  • 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 facility 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 the ground. Those detectors measure the energy deposited by charged particles when releasing Cerenkov light in water. In addition to that, an optical telescope collecting ultraviolet light -which is produced by fluorescence of the nitrogen molecules excited by the cascade particles can image 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 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, reconstructions algorithm creation, computing) - nuclear 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 also be expected to make field trips to the Observatory site, in the Argentinian city of Malargue, near the Andes. The student is expected to lead and coauthor papers in leading journals. The Pierre Auger Observatory is among the most cited collaborations in the field. Thus, the exposure and impact of a Ph.D. 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 scientists 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 others.