Science Goals

Explore the behavior of matter and energy in its most extreme environments

Cosmic rays, high-energy charged particles traveling at velocities that can approach the speed of light, are a rich potential probe of chemical and nuclear in the Universe. The majority of cosmic rays are atomic nuclei from hydrogen to the heaviest elements with energies spanning more than twelve orders of magnitude. In the low energy end, these cosmic rays are most likely accelerated in supernova remnants. Their elemental and isotopic composition probes nucleosynthesis, nuclear interactions with the interstellar medium, the distribution of freshly synthesized elements, and the mechanism of supernova explosions. At energies above roughly 1017 eV a different source dominates. The acceleration engines responsible for such extreme energies are not well understood, but at the highest energies, above about 6 × 1019 eV, the rapid energy loss resulting from interactions with the cosmic microwave background limits sources to within about 100 Mpc. Other cosmic ray components include electrons, positrons and antiprotons. While these are largely the result of interactions of nuclear cosmic rays with the ISM, they may have other origins. Positrons and electrons can be produced directly in astrophysical objects such as pulsars and deviations in their spectra can provide important insights into nearby sources. Cosmic ray particles may also be produced directly by the annihilation of dark matter candidates such as nutralinos and Kaluza-Klein particles. Details of the spectra of the resulting particles would therefore provide important constraints on the nature of the dark matter.

Program News

22 Aug 2016
Call for Nominations to the Executive Committee of the Physics of the Cosmos Program Analysis Group (PhysPAG) »  [PDF]
28 July 2016
L3ST Interim Report now available »  [PDF]
14 July 2016
PCOS Newsletter for July 2016 now available »  [PDF]
14 June 2016
LISA Pathfinder First Results Announcements »  Details

Project News

Chandra News
27 Jun 2016
Clandestine Black Hole May Represent New Population » Details
Fermi News
28 Apr 2016
NASA's Fermi Telescope Helps Link Cosmic Neutrino to Blazar Blast » Details
Planck News
31 Mar 2015
Herschel and Planck find missing clue to galaxy cluster formation
» Details
XMM-Newton News
28 Apr 2016
Powerful Winds Spotted from Mysterious X-ray Binaries » Details

Related News

Hitomi News
6 July 2016
Hitomi Mission Charts Hot Winds of a Galaxy Cluster for the First Time »  Details
NuSTAR News
5 Jan 2016
Andromeda Galaxy Scanned with High-Energy X-ray Vision » Details
Suzaku News
26 Aug 2015
X-ray Astronomy Satellite "Suzaku" Completes Scientific Mission » Details
Swift News
22 Jun 2016
X-ray Echoes of a Shredded Star Provide Close-up of 'Killer' Black Hole » Details