Mar 14, 2001
The Highest Energy Cosmic Rays
Dr. Angela Olinto, U. Chicago
The origin of cosmic rays with energies higher than 1020 eV
remains a mystery. Accelerating particles up to these energies is a
challenge even for the most energetic astrophysical objects known.
While the isotropy in the arrival directions argues for a an
extra-galactic origin, the photon-pion production off the cosmic
background radiation limits the sources of such particles to systems
less than 50 Mpc away from us. The combination of large gyroradii,
efficient energy losses, and isotropic arrival direction defies most of
the proposed astrophysical accelerators as well as the more exotic
alternatives. We will review recent observations along with the most
recent theoretical models for the acceleration and propagation of
ultra-high-energy cosmic rays. We will close by discussing the
potential of future observatories to resolve this astrophysical mystery.
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