As a good science website that we try to be, there is a lot of talk about the most important accelerator in the world, the LHC. But nevertheless it is not the most powerful.
The most powerful accelerator of all is the universe itself, in which it is generatedn collisions thousands of times more energetic than those of the LHC at CERN. This has been known for almost a century, but analyzing these natural collisions is very complicated and only now we begin to get to put a little order to all this chaos of particles (cosmic rays) that they reach us everywhere.
Specifically, the High Altitude Cherenkov Gamma Ray Observatory (HAWC) in Mexico, is the experiment that seems closer to making sense of everything this and yield results that could totally change the way in which we conceive the Universe. For this they use a material that sounds like a joke to those who do not dedicate their lives to detect cosmic rays: water. How do they get to see cosmic rays using water? Let’s see it!
Water, lots of water to see cosmic rays
It seems crazy that with all the technology at the LHC cosmic rays can be detected with something like water, but The trick is a curious effect called Cherenkov radiation. This radiation is a small spark of light that appears when a particle travels faster than light in a particular medium. Nothing can go faster than light in a vacuum, but in another environment, like water, it can because light travels slower.
Cosmic rays, which are particles that travel very fast and with a lot of energy, they maintain these high speeds Also when they encounter water on their way and emit Cherenkov radiation, which using sophisticated photodetectors, physicists can analyze to obtain information on where they came from and what they found on the way. Quite a challenge that the scientific community has been pursuing for years and it could come true in no time.
Cosmic rays, the best kept secret in the Universe
Cosmic rays are particles of all kinds that reach Earth from all parts of the Universe without us knowing very well what causes them. Some of these cosmic rays are even too energetic for the current theoretical model of the operation and origin of the Universe, making them even more mysterious. Deciphering these strange messengers will one of the biggest steps in the knowledge of the Universe that have been taken in the history of humanity, without exaggeration.
Now, after much failed previous attempts, it seems that HAWC is in a position to decipher this great hidden mystery of our universe. In the coming months we can hope that if the research and analysis are successful, we will have a publication that is a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Physics, which will also help us to better understand how the most interesting parts of the universe work like black holes, the neutron stars, the psares or the supernovae, all of them candidates to emit cosmic rays.
Now it is the tortuous wait, but as always you can be sure that we will be here at Omicrono Ciencia to check it in detail and in a simple way. Why the most interesting thing about physics is being able to understand it and discover how strange this world in which we live is.