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Identification of the primary cosmic ray

Abstract : The nature of the primary particle giving rise to an atmospheric shower may be, to some extent, inferred from the observable properties: longitudinal profile (especially position of the maximum of the number of charged particles) or shape at ground level (lateral distribution, curvature and thickness of the shower front, muonic component). Distinguishing different nuclei cannot be performed unambiguously on a single shower, because of the random fluctuations in the first steps of the cascade; however, it is possible to study the composition of the incident flux on a statistical basis: showers from heavier nuclei have a faster development, and contain more muons. The uncertainties on the hadronic interactions at the highest energies limit the reliability of the identification. Other primaries, if they exist, could be easier to distinguish. Photons would give a slower development than protons, especially at highest energies, and a very reduced muonic component; neutrinos would be characterized by deep interactions in the atmosphere, or even within the Earth, giving almost horizontal showers with a large electromagnetic component, clearly different from the muonic tail of showers induced in the upper atmosphere by nuclei. Such ‘exotic' primaries have not yet been observed.
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Submitted on : Friday, February 3, 2006 - 4:56:15 PM
Last modification on : Friday, April 10, 2020 - 5:11:28 PM

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P. Billoir, P. Sommers. Identification of the primary cosmic ray. Comptes Rendus Physique, Elsevier Masson, 2004, 5, pp.495-503. ⟨10.1016/j.crhy.2004.03.011⟩. ⟨in2p3-00025561⟩

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