2002-2003 Science Planning Summary

Aeronomy & Astrophysics

Dr. Vladimir Papitashvili
Program Manager


NSF/OPP 99-80801
Station: South Pole Station
RPSC POC: Paul Sullivan
Research Site(s): SPASE2 array

South Pole Air Shower Experiment - 2 (SPASE-2)
Dr. Thomas K. Gaisser
University of Delaware
Bartol Research Institute
Dr. Todor Stanev
University of Delaware

Deploying Team Members: Xinhua Bai . Vanja Bucic . Serap Z Tilav
Research Objectives: Cosmic rays consist of protons and other atomic nuclei, accelerated (scientists believe) to high energy levels in such distant astrophysical sources as supernova remnants. As cosmic rays from space arrive at the Earth, they interact in the upper atmosphere. The South Pole Air Shower Experiment-2 (SPASE-2) is a sparsely filled array of 120 scintillation detectors spread over 15,000 square meters at South Pole. This array detects the charged particles (primarily electrons) that are produced by interactions of these very high energy cosmic rays.

A nine-station subarray called VULCAN has been constructed to detect the Cherenkov radiation (light emitted by a charged particle moving through a medium at a higher speed than the speed of light within that material, analogous to the shock wave produced by objects moving faster than the speed of sound) produced high above the ground in the same showers. The SPASE array is located less than half a kilometer from the top of AMANDA and is designed to complement AMANDA's (AA-130-OO) neutrino detecting capacity.

The first of SPASE's two goals is to investigate the high-energy primary cosmic radiation that comes from galaxies by determining the relative contribution of different groups of nuclei at energies greater than about 100 teraelectron volts. This can be done by analyzing coincidences between SPASE and AMANDA. Such coincident events are produced by high-energy cosmic-ray showers with trajectories that pass through SPASE (on the surface) and AMANDA (buried 1.5 to 2 kilometers deep). AMANDA detects high-energy muons penetrating the Earth in those same showers for which SPASE detects the low-energy electrons arriving at the surface. The ratio of muons to electrons depends on the mass of the original primary cosmic ray nucleus. The VULCAN detector further permits the calculation of two other ratios that also depend on primary mass in readings from the showers it detects.

The second goal is to use the coincident events as a tagged beam. This configuration permits investigation and calibration of certain aspects of the AMANDA response. This project cooperates with the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.

Field Season Overview:
The primary task for the researchers this season is to upgrade the data-acquisition system to Linux. Working from the computer room in the science building under the dome, team members will calibrate and optimize the SPASE-2 array, located on the surface in the Dark Sector of South Pole Station.

The station science technician will assist the researchers during the austral summer and will monitor the equipment and perform routine maintenance during the winter.