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On the scent of exploding stars in Karlsruhe


The Earth is continiously exposed to high-energy particles from outher space. A fraction of them are charged particles, fully ionized atomic nuclei, traveling with almost the speed of light through the Galaxy - the cosmic rays. They interact with the atomic nuclei in the atmosphere of the Earth. The energy released in the collisions is transformed into a variety of elementary particles, which form a cascade, the extensive air showers. Such showers are explored with the KASCADE experiment in Karlsruhe.
A calculated air shower in a computer model. The lines represent the tracks of individual particles.

The properties of cosmic rays are investigated with the experiment. Objective is to increase the knowledge about these high-energy particles and therewith about the processes in the cosmos. It is assumed that the atomic nuclei are accelerated in exploding stars, the supernova explosions. Afterwards, the particles propagate for several million years through the Galaxy until this matter from far away accidentally hits the Earth.

Pictures from a detector of KASCADE are projected at the Kunstfassade. The detector registers hadrons, among them are protons and neutrons, the building blocks of atomic nuclei. Their measurement allows unique insights in the processes during the development of the particle cascades in the atmosphere. (Dr. Jörg R. Hörandel)

The KASCADE experiment:

Various detectors to register extensive air showers are installed on an area covering 200 times 200 m2.

An air shower in the hadron calorimeter:

Schematic view of a measured shower. The hadrons are registered with 11000 measuring devices, arranged in nine layers. The detectors are embedded in absorber layers made of iron with a total weight of 4000 t. Sequences of nine pictures, corresponding to the nine layers of detectors are shown at the Kunstfassade for meassured showers.

Examples of measured showers, projected at the Kunstfassade.

Links:
Homepage of the KASCADE experiment
More information on astroparticle physics (in German)