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Physicist to speak about possible Kansas cosmic ray observatory

October 11, 2011 12:00AM

Physicists are moving beyond simple light exploration and are using sophisticated cosmic ray observatories to unlock the ancient mysteries of the university. Physicist Nick Solomey thinks one of those observatories should be in Kansas.

Solomey, chairman of the Wichita State University Physics Department, will address that possibility in a public talk at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 18, in 107 Grubbs Hall on the Pittsburg State University campus. Solomey's visit is part of the Physics Colloquium Series, supported by the PSU Physics and Math Departments.

Solomey is an internationally known physicist who is a co-spokesperson for a project at FermiLab, the U.S. Department of Energy's national laboratory specializing in high-energy particle physics research. He has written an award-winning book for the public entitled "Elusive Neutrino: A Subatomic Detective Story" and has written more than 150 referred articles in physics journals.

Solomey is an advocate for the construction of Auger North, a major cosmic ray observatory in western Kansas. The facility is described as a "hybrid detector," employing two independent methods to detect and study high-energy cosmic rays. One technique detects high-energy particles through their interaction with water placed in surface detector tanks. The other technique tracks the development of air showers by observing ultraviolet light emitted high in the Earth's atmosphere.

By detecting and studying these rare particles, the Auger Observatory helps physicists unravel the puzzle of their origin and existence.

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