Science and Engineering

University of Utah

John Belz
Salt Lake City, UT
$1,000,000
June 2012

Earth is being bombarded by extremely energetic cosmic radiation from within our galaxy and beyond. It is clear that understanding the origins of these cosmic rays will require accurate models of the most violent processes in the universe. Currently, cosmic rays are studied using detectors covering thousands of square kilometers of the Earth’s surface and costing tens of millions of dollars. The sheer scale of these observatories is thus becoming a limitation to our understanding. To overcome this limitation, the team will develop a remote sensing technique known as “bistatic radar.” Evidence for the principle behind this technique was first collected by the MARIACHI project, which used high school based cosmic ray detectors and parasitic radar receivers in a very noisy environment to detect the radar echoes of cosmic-ray induced atmospheric plasmas. The investigators on the present proposal aim to repeat the MARIACHI measurements in conjunction with a well-established cosmic ray experiment (Utah’s Telescope Array) in a radio-quiet location. They will develop the detection of these atmospheric anomalies into a tool for studying particle astrophysics, thus enabling high-energy cosmic ray research to proceed into the next generation of sensitivity.

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