U of U Receives $1 Million to Study Cosmic Rays

The University of Utah has received a $1 million dollar grant for the study of high-energy cosmic rays in Utah’s western deserts. The funding will assist researchers in using new technology know as Bistatic Radar to track cosmic rays back to their point of origin.  Radar Project Director and Professor of Physics and Astronomy John Belz says the technology is less expensive than conventional cosmic radar equipment, and is similar to what police use to identify those speeding on the highway.

“In this case the radar target is the kind of atmospheric disturbance that is created when a very high energy ray passes through the earths atmosphere,”he says.

The grant given by the W.M. Keck Foundation will pay for the development of the “Keck Radar Observatory,” which will be located at the Telescope Array Observatory site in Millard County. Belz says the location of the new facility will allow the two observatories to work together to track more cosmic ray events.

“The idea is we can expand the Keck Radar Observatory to cover areas of the earth that are not being covered by conventional cosmic ray detectors,”he says.

Cosmic rays are 10 trillion times more energetic than particles produced in a nuclear explosion, and originate from cosmic events in the universe. Belz says the researchers will study the origins of rare cosmic rays to better understand events shaping the universe.