The Pierre Auger Observatory is the world leading science project for the exploration of cosmic rays. More than 500 scientists from 16 countries work together to study the highest-energy cosmic rays by measuring the properties of the showers produced in the atmosphere.
The Observatory is located near Malargüe (Argentina) and has been detecting ultra-high energy cosmic rays for more than ten years. An international agreement has been signed in November 2015 by the science funding agency representatives to continue the operation until 2025.
The essential feature of the Observatory is its hybrid design, a combination of a large surface array and a fluorescence detector. The surface detector (SD) is composed of 1600 water Cherenkov units, spaced by 1500 m, covering a total area of 3000 km2. The fluorescence detector consists of 24 telescopes overlooking the surface array.
The simultaneous observation of the showers with different techniques enables high-statistics and high-precision studies and the huge extension of the SD array allows to detect the very rare events at ~10^20 eV, whose flux is ~1 particle/km^2/century. The baseline configuration of the detectors has been enhanced with a smaller and denser array of SD units and with high elevation fluorescence telescopes to reduce the minimum detectable shower energy down to ~10^17 eV.
The Pierre Auger Observatory has yielded dramatic advances in the measurements of cosmic rays. The abrubt suppression of the energy spectrum above 5 x 10^19 eV has been unequivocally observed. This was predicted since a long time as a consequence of the interaction of cosmic-ray particles with the low energy photons of Cosmic Microwave Background.
The so called ankle, that is the flattening of the spectrum at 5 x 10^18 eV, has been measured with an unprecedented precision. The FD measurements of the longitudinal shower profile has confirmed that the mass composition is mainly made by light primaries around the ankle and have provided evidence of an unexpected shift towards heavier primaries at the highest energies. A result that is consistent with the no evidence of anisotropy or of association with astrophysical sources of the arrival direction of cosmic rays.
Very stringent limits on the flux of photons and neutrinos have allowed to exclude most of the so-called top-down models, in which the cosmic rays are generated by decay of super heavy dark matter or topological defects or similar exotic particles, favouring scenarios in which the acceleration of the primaries occurs in astrophysical sources.
The three dimensional nature of the SD units has allowed to study the showers inclined at large zenith angles. In these showers only muons arrive at ground and the comparison of the measurements with the Monte Carlo simulations has provided a powerful test of the hadronic interaction models extrapolated at energies order of magnitudes larger than the one reachable at LHC.
Due to the reduced duty cycle of the FD, the mass composition of the cosmic rays into the suppression region remains unexplored.
To solve this problem the Auger collaboration has planned an upgrade of the SD called AugerPrime. Plastic scintillator detectors will be installed on the top of each SD units. Combining the different responses of the scintillators and of the water Cherenkov detectors to the electromagnetic and muonic component of the shower, it will be possible to estimate the mass composition at the very high energies and to make anisotropy studies of the light primaries.
The CTA project is an initiative to build the next generation ground-based very high energy gamma-ray instrument. It will serve as an open observatory to a wide astrophysics community and will provide a deep insight into the non-thermal high-energy universe. A short movie outlining the envisaged arrays is available here. A special edition of the journal Astroparticle Physics with a focus on CTA can be accessed here.
The aims of the CTA can be roughly grouped into three main themes, serving as key science drivers:
1 Understanding the origin of cosmic rays and their role in the Universe
2 Understanding the nature and variety of particle acceleration around black holes
Searching for the ultimate nature of matter and physics beyond the Standard Model
The DAMA project at the Gran Sasso National Laboratories of the I.N.F.N. is an observatory for rare processes thanks to the development and use of large mass highly radiopure scintillator set-ups. The main activity field is the investigation on Dark Matter particles in the galactic halo and the search for several other rare processes (such as bb decay modes in various isotopes, charge-non-conserving processes, Pauli exclusion principle violating processes, nucleon instability, detection of solar axions and search for exotics).
The main radiopure experimental set-ups of the DAMA project at LNGS are:
Dark matter investigation
For references and results from all the experimental set-ups
see in : http://people.roma2.infn.it/dama
Fermi Large Area Gamma ray Telescope (formerly GLAST )
The FERMI gamma ray satellite, is in orbit, since June 2008. After a commissioning period is now delivering data.
The Large Area Telescope (LAT), onboard of FERMI, is the most sensitive gamma-ray detector to date, in the 20 MeV - 300GeV energy band. It provides large effective collection area (>8000cm2@1GeV), wide field of view (>2sr) and good energy resolution (8%@1GeV). The very large field of view will make it possible to observe 20% of the sky at any instant, and the entire sky on a timescale of a few hours.
Fermi is opening a new and important window on a wide variety of phenomena, including black holes and active galactic nuclei; the optical-UV extragalactic background light, gamma-ray bursts; the origin of cosmic rays and supernova remnants; and searches for hypothetical new phenomena such as supersymmetric dark matter annihilations and Lorentz invariance violation.
LAser RAnged Satellites Experiment (LARASE)
Einstein's theory of general relativity (GR) represents the best theory we have at our disposal for the description of the gravitational interaction, both at the high and low energy scales, and it is the pillar of modern cosmology to understand the universe that we observe through a number of different techniques. Indeed, after 100 years, GR has passed a wide number of experimental verifications and it is currently considered the “Standard Model” for gravitational physics.
The experiment denominated LARASE (LAser RAnged Satellites Experiment) represents a new research program whose main goal is to provide accurate measurements for the gravitational interaction in the weak-field and slow-motion (WFSM) limit of GR by means of the laser tracking of satellites orbiting around the Earth. In fact, thanks to the very precise measurements provided by the powerful Satellite Laser Ranging (SLR) technique, with a precision down to a few mm in root-mean-square of the so-called Normal Points ―which represent the station-to-satellite distances averaged over a suitable time period ―we are able to reconstruct the orbital elements of each satellite with an accuracy of about a cm over weekly arcs.
Among the various ingredients needed, two of them play a very significant role: i) the quality of the tracking observations of the orbit, and ii) the quality of the dynamical models. The dynamical models are implemented in a software code whose goal is to minimize, opportunely, an observable function and solve for the unknowns in which we are interested. These models have to account for both gravitational and non-gravitational forces in such a way to reduce as much as possible the difference between the observed range and the computed (from the models) one. Of course, the better is the minimization process through the orbit data reduction from one side and the better the estimate of the systematic error sources from the other, more precise and accurate will be the a posteriori reconstruction of the satellite orbit.
The test masses of the LARASE experiment are spherical in shape and fully passive laser-ranged satellites with a generally low area/mass ratio in order to minimize the non-gravitational accelerations.
In this family, the two LAGEOS and the recently launched LARES are the most important to consider because of the high accuracy of their orbit determination thanks to the very precise measurements of the SLR technique. The older LAGEOS (LAser GEOdynamic Satellite) was launched by NASA on May 4, 1976, LAGEOS II was jointly launched by NASA and ASI on October 22, 1992, finally LARES (LAser RElativity Satellite) was launched by ASI on February 13, 2012.
Therefore, LARASE aims to improve the dynamical models of the current best laser-ranged satellites, as well as to improve the error budget estimates of the several perturbations, both gravitational and non-gravitational, that influence their (in principle) geodesic motion around the Earth.
This will allow to test in a reliable way Einstein's theory of GR with respect to other metric and non-metric theories for the gravitational interaction and to go beyond the present measurements as well as the kind of tests carried out so far.
The Large High Altitude Air Shower Observatory (LHAASO) project is a new generation instrument, to be built at 4410 meters of altitude in the Sichuan province of China, with the aim to study with unprecedented sensitivity the spectrum, the composition and the anisotropy of cosmic rays in the energy range between 10^12 and 10^18 eV, as well as to act simultaneously as a wide aperture (one stereoradiant), continuosly-operated gamma ray telescope in the energy range between 10^11 and 10^15 eV.
The main science case of LHAASO is the quest for cosmic ray sources. LHAASO will open for the first time the PeV range to the direct observations of the high energy cosmic ray sources.
The LHAASO approach (survey of the gamma-ray sky at 100 -- 1000 TeV) is complementary to the neutrino astronomy carried out by IceCube/Km3Net detectors and to the charged-particle astronomy pursued by AUGER.
The remarkable sensitivity of LHAASO in cosmic rays physics and gamma-ray astronomy would play a key-role in the comprehensive general program to explore the High Energy Universe.
The first phase of LHAASO will consist of the following major components:
- 1 km^2 array (LHAASO-KM2A), including 5195 scintillator detectors each 1 m^2 in size, with 15 m spacing, for electromagnetic particle detection.
- An overlapping 1 km^2 array of 1171 underground water Cherenkov tanks each 36 m^2 in size, with 30 m spacing, for muon detection (total sensitive area about 42,000 m^2).
- A close-packed, surface water Cherenkov detector facility with a total area of about 78,000 m^2 (LHAASO-WCDA).
- 18 wide field-of-view air Cherenkov telescopes (LHAASO-WFCTA).
LHAASO will be located at high altitude (4410 m asl, 600 g/cm^2, 2° 21' 31'' N, 100° 08'15'' E) in the Daochen site, Sichuan province, P.R. China. Construction of the infrastructures started in 2015. The commissioning of the first pond and of a quarter of the KM2A array is expected in 2018. The conclusion of installation in 2021.
LIMADOU is a scientific payload for the Chinese Seismological Experiment Satellite (CSES). INFN and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) participate in the project of the Chinese Earthquake Administration (CEA).
CSES mission will study the ionospheric perturbations possibly associated with earthquakes - especially with destructive ones - and explore new approaches for short-term and imminent forecast, as well as will help find a new way for theoretical studies on the mechanism of earthquake preparation processes.
The program will make use of new techniques and equipments, in order to obtain world-wide data of space environment of the electromagnetic field, plasma and energetic particles.
The satellite is based on the Chinese CAST2000 platform. It is a 3-axis attitude stabilized and will be placed in a 98° Sun-syncronous circular orbit at an altitude of 500 km in September 2016. CSES satellite will be launched in 2017 and inserted into a circular Sun-syncronous orbit with 98 degrees inclination and 500 km altitude. Expected lifetime is 5 years.
CSES hosts several instruments onboard: 2 magnetometers, an electrical field detector, a plasma analyzer, a Langmiur probe and a High Energy Particle Detector (HEPD). A memorandum of understanding between the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) and the Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI) concerning cooperation on the China Seismo-Electromagnetic Satellite (CSES) has been signed on September 25, 2013. The INFN groups are developing prototypes of the Electric Field Detector (EFD) and of the High Energy Particle Detector (HEPD).
The HEPD consists of two layers of plastic scintillators for the trigger, and a calorimeter constituted by a tower of plastic scintillator counters and a LYSO plane. The direction of the incident particle is provided by two planes of double-side silicon microstrip detectors placed in front of the trigger.
HEPD detector will measure electrons (3 - 100 MeV) and protons (30 - 300 MeV) along CSES orbit. The angular and energy resolution and the detector acceptance are optimized to accurately detect the expected low short-term time variations of the particle flux from the radiation belts.
The LSPE (Large Scale Polarization Explorer) experiment is a mm-wave polarimeter aboard of a stratospheric balloon and studies the polarization of the cosmic microwave background (CMB), with the aim of measuring the weak signal produced by cosmic inflation, in the first moments of the evolution of the universe, at energies of the order of 1016 GeV, which cannot be reproduced in any laboratory.
The polarization state of the photons of the microwave background is sensitive to scalar (density) and tensor (gravitational waves) perturbations present at the time of recombination. In fact, most of the CMB photons is diffused (due to Thomson scattering) by free electrons for the last time on the last scattering surface. Thus, any quadrupole anisotropy present in the photons incident on the electrons produces a certain degree of linear polarization of the scattered photons. At the recombination time, protostructures (density perturbations), that will form the galaxies and clusters, and gravitational waves (tensor perturbations), produced by the hypothetical inflation, are both present and both have a quadrupole component that generates a linear polarization of the diffused CMB photons. The symmetry properties, however, are different: in case of scalar perturbations an irrotational polarization field (E-modes) is generated, while tensor perturbations produce a polarization field with both irrotational and rotational (the so-called B-modes) components.
So far, the detection of the B-modes has been performed by one experiment only (BICEP2), at a single frequency (140 GHz), and on a limited region of the sky (a few %). Moreover, a combined analysis of the BICEP2 and Plank data has shown that the result is most likely polluted by a large contribution from interstellar dust, thus of non-cosmological origin. New experiments are needed, with a larger coverage of the sky and a broader range of observed frequencies.
The LSPE experiment meets these requirements, observing a large fraction of the sky (25%) in a wide frequency range, between 40 and 250 GHz. It will fly on a stratospheric balloon in the polar night, thus overcoming the problem of transmission and noise pollution that prevent ground experiments, such as BICEP2, to operate efficiently at frequencies higher than 140 GHz.
The INFN sections of Genoa (F. Gatti, National), Pisa (G. Signorelli), Roma (P. de Bernardis) and Rome Tor Vergata (A. Rocchi) actively contribute to the experiment.
The Space Mission Pamela represents a state-of-the-art of the investigation of the cosmic radiation, addressing the most compelling issues facing astrophysics and cosmology: the nature of the dark matter that pervades the universe, the apparent absence of cosmological antimatter, the origin and evolution of matter in the galaxy.
PAMELA, a powerful particle identifier using a permanent magnet spectrometer with a variety of specialized detectors, is an instrument of extraordinary scientific potential that is measuring with unprecedented precision and sensitivity the abundance and energy spectra of cosmic rays electrons, positrons, antiprotons and light nuclei over a very large range of energy from 50 MeV to hundreds GeV, depending on the species.
PAMELA has been put in an elliptical orbit at an altitude between 350 and 610 Km, on board of the Resurs-DK1 Russian satellite by a rocket Soyuz, on the 15th of June 2006. In September 2010 the orbit was changed to a nearby circular one, at an altitude of about 570 km, and it has not changed since then.
PAMELA results are available in a number of publications, providing new, precise information on the composition and energy spectrum of cosmic rays.
The matter and anti-matter components of cosmic rays have been extensively explored both in composition and in energy spectrum. Differential energy spectra of particles of galactic and solar origin, as well as trapped secondaries, have been measured. Moreover, over the long PAMELA data taking period, spectral evolution in time is being monitored, and both short and long term effects are being studied.
Since October 2013 all the published data are public and available at asi data center, accessible for an easy visualization.
The mission continues to take data and has been recently approved by the Russian Space Agency until 2019.
Suggested link: http://pamela.roma2.infn.it
Virgo is a ground-based laser interferometer designed to detect gravitational waves (GW). It is located in Cascina, a small town near Pisa on the site of the European Gravitational Observatory (EGO). It is a project born from a collaboration between France (CNRS) and Italy (INFN) and is now operated by an international collaboration of scientists from France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Hungary.
Gravitational waves are predicted by the theory of General Relativity, published by Albert Einstein in 1916. They are ripples in the fabric of the spacetime that propagate at the speed of light, and are produced when huge masses are accelerated or deformed. This happens in many astrophysical scenarios, including supernova explosions or the gravitational interactions between black holes or neutron stars.
Gravitational waves are completely different from light, the main “messenger” used so far to study the Universe, although nowadays scientists have started to exploit other cosmic messengers, like cosmic rays or neutrinos. Catching gravitational waves will therefore open a new window on the Universe, allowing us to probe extreme phenomena driven by gravity, unexplored domains of the physics of matter at supranuclear density and of strong gravitational fields.
Virgo consists mainly in a Michelson laser interferometer made of two orthogonal arms, each 3 kilometers long. Multiple reflections between mirrors located at the end of each arm extend the effective optical length of each arm up to 120 kilometers. The frequency range of Virgo extends from 10 to 6,000 Hz. The whole interferometer attains optical perfection and is extremely well isolated from the rest of the world in order to be only sensitive to the gravitational radiation. To achieve it, scientists have developed the most advanced techniques in the field of high power ultrastable lasers, high reflectivity mirrors, seismic isolation and position and alignment control. The initial Virgo detector observed the sky between 2007 and 2011, resulting in no detection, but in a series of excellent upper-limits on the GW emission for several sources. At present, Virgo is undergoing a major upgrade that will push all the employed technologies to the limit and improve the sensitivity by a factor of ten at all detection frequencies. Advanced Virgo will start to search again for gravitational waves in 2016 with a much better sensitivity than the initial detectors, opening the so-called second generation era. The sensitivity of Advanced Virgo will allow us to observe gravitational wave sources ten times further away and explore a volume 1000 times larger than before. In such a large volume, the detection of a gravitational wave event will be way more probable. In fact, one could expect to detect at least one gravitational wave signal per month or even per week. In order to achieve this jump in sensitivity, the scientists of the Virgo collaboration have developed frontier technologies that will be crucial to reduce the spurious signals produced by various types of noises.Some of the key improvements of Advanced Virgo are:
- the laser power will be higher;
- a sophisticated system of thermal compensation of the optics to avoid optical aberration will be introduced;
- a new optical layout designed for reducing the effect of mirror thermal vibrations will be used;
- new optics suitable for shaping the sensitivity curve are foreseen, to optimize the detector performance on a choice of observed sources;
- the new mirrors of Advanced Virgo have the best quality in the world. They have a reflectivity of 99.999% and the defects on their surface are kept below one nanometer;
- laser beam will propagate in an ultra-high-vacuum improved by a factor of ten with respect to Virgo: the residual pressure in the vacuum pipes will be a millionth of a millionth of an atmosphere.
Advanced Virgo will hear for gravitational waves with frequencies between 10 Hz and 10000 Hz. These are the same frequencies as the sound waves that are audible by humans. Any signal caught by Advanced Virgo could be sent to a loudspeaker: we will hear the symphony of the Universe.