High Energy Physics Projects: Pierre Auger Observatory

On the vast plain known as the Pampa Amarilla (yellow prairie) in western Argentina, a new window on the universe is taking shape.

There, the Pierre Auger Cosmic Ray Observatory is studying the universe’s highest energy particles, which shower down on Earth in the form of cosmic rays. While cosmic rays with low to moderate energies are well understood, those with extremely high energies remain mysterious. By detecting and studying these rare particles, the Auger Observatory is tackling the enigmas of their origin and existence. Comparing results from the different types of detectors also helps scientists reconcile the two sets of data and produce the most accurate results about the energy of primary cosmic rays. Comparing data from the two methods is similar to comparing the results of a political poll and the results of an actual election, allowing scientists to better understand data from both detection methods and work on increasing the accuracy of both techniques.