Osaka-based scientists harness the power of the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii to capture cosmic-ray extensive air showers, shedding light on the universe's most enigmatic particles.
Scientists at Osaka Metropolitan University have now sharpened a groundbreaking technique to observe cosmic-ray extensive air showers, providing a fresh perspective on some of the universe’s most energetic mysteries.
A cosmic spectacle unfolds when a high-energy cosmic ray collides with our planet’s atmosphere, creating a profusion of particles known as an extensive air shower.
Guided by Associate Professor Toshihiro Fujii from the Graduate School of Science and the Nambu Yoichiro Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics, and graduate student Fraser Bradfield, the research team unearthed an unexpected ally in their quest: the prime-focus wide field camera attached to the Subaru Telescope. Located on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano, this instrument offers a vantage point like no other for capturing these particle displays in exceptional detail.
Spotting the Unexpected in Astronomical Observations
Traditionally, the Subaru Telescope has been the sentinel for observational astronomy. Whenever cosmic rays traverse its field, leaving behind “tracks” that conceal desired celestial bodies, astronomers deem these as mere distractions. Yet, for Professor Fujii’s team, this “noise” became their primary melody.
After meticulously sifting through approximately 17,000 images taken between 2014 and 2020, they identified 13 images showcasing extensive air showers. Remarkably, these images presented a multitude of particle tracks, surpassing conventional counts.
Professor Fujii elucidated, “With conventional observation methods, it is challenging to distinguish between the types of particles that constitute extensive air showers.” He further stated, “Our method, on the other hand, has the potential to determine the nature of individual particles.”
By amalgamating this novel approach with traditional techniques, the team is optimistic about delving deeper into the intricacies of extensive air showers. Professor Fujii anticipates, “This technique may allow us to search for dark matter or other exotic particles, offering additional insights into the transition of the universe into a matter-dominated era.”
For those keen on diving deeper, these findings were featured in Scientific Reports on October 12, 2023.