AAS 207th Meeting, 8-12 January 2006
Session 61 High Energy Cosmic Rays
Invited, Tuesday, 8:30-9:20am, January 10, 2006, Ballroom/Salon 2

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[61.01] The Pierre Auger Observatory for the highest energy cosmic rays: Is it really astronomy?

J. W. Cronin (U. Chicago)

The nature and origin of the highest energy cosmic rays is a mystery. While there are many theories, only with measurements can the mystery be solved. The Pierre Auger Observatory has been built in Argentina to observe the highest energy cosmic rays, those with energy > 1019 eV. The flux of these cosmic rays is about 1/km2/year so a large area (3000 km2) is required. Primary cosmic rays are detected by the shower of particles produced in the atmosphere. Interaction with the Cosmic Microwave Background limits the sources to be < 100 Mpc. With such short distances the charged cosmic rays may not be significantly deflected by magnetic fields and hence have the observed direction point to the source. The cosmic ray shower particles are detected both by water tanks on the ground and by telescopes that detect the fluorescence of the shower particles in the nitrogen of the atmosphere. The observatory is 2/3 complete and has been taking useful data for the past two years as it has grown. The talk will describe the observatory and present some initial results.

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