10 Candles For The AMS-02 Particle Detector (Astronomy)

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer 02 (AMS-02), the largest particle detector operating in space, hosted on the International Space Station since 2011, is 10 years old. The study of cosmic rays is its main objective and its research campaign has await valuable information on the composition and evolution mechanisms of the universe and the origin of dark matter

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer 02 (Ams-02), the largest particle detector operating in space, turns 10 years old . Housed on the International Space Station (ISS), where it was transported and installed in 2011, the experiment successfully continues its mission. The study of cosmic rays , elusive particles messengers of the energetic astrophysical phenomena of the universe, is his main objective. From this research campaign we expect valuable information on the composition and evolution mechanisms of the universe and on the origin of the dark matter that pervades our galaxy.

Among the members of the international collaboration responsible for Ams-02 there is also Italy which, through the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (Infn), has played a leading role in the design of the tool, and still continues to support data acquisition and analysis activities. A long life that of Ams-02 which required an unexpected and extraordinary unscheduled maintenance intervention , carried out by astronauts. The instrument, positioned outside the International Space Station, required a series of extravehicular activities (Eva) which had among the protagonists the Italian ESA astronaut, Luca Parmitano. Interventions that have made it possible to extend the activities at least until 2028.

Consisting of a 7.5 ton detector equipped with about 300,000 sensors, Ams-02 represents an absolute frontier scientific mission, as it exploits, in a hostile environment such as space, various technologies developed on the ground inside the laboratories dedicated to particle physics. Among the main scientific objectives of the mission, the search for possible traces of primordial antimatter and dark matter signals coming from our galaxy stands out . Ams-02 measures the composition and abundance of cosmic rays (messengers of the universe together with photons , neutrinos and gravitational waves) with unprecedented accuracy) which constantly invest the Earth’s atmosphere with energies up to some TeV (tera-electron volts), energies similar to those reached by the Large Hadron Collider (Lhc) accelerator of CERN in Geneva.

During its first ten years of life, Ams-02 collected over 170 billion cosmic particles and measured their properties to investigate several still unresolved questions of fundamental physics, such as the existence of primordial antimatter in space and the nature of dark matter. Most cosmic rays, about 99 percent, are made up of “ordinary” matter such as protons and helium nuclei. The rest is made up of heavy nuclei, electrons and antimatter particles. The particles of antimatter have an electric charge opposite to the ordinary one: as in the case of the proton, with positive charge, and of the antiproton, with negative charge. Thanks to its powerful magnet, Ams-02 can distinguish particles of antimatter from those of matter, and therefore accurately measure even the very rarecomponent of antimatter in cosmic rays , in particular positrons and antiprotons. The deformations in the energy spectrum of these particles could indeed contain information on the nature of the dark matter that pervades our galaxy. The magnetic field of Ams-02 also makes it possible to identify heavy antimatter particles, such as anti-helium nuclei, to date never measured in space and whose observation would represent a solid discovery of antimatter of cosmological origin.

With the analysis of the data collected in the first 10 years of operations, the AMS-02 collaboration has already produced a series of observations and scientific results that have been published in the most prestigious journals in the sector. The results, also accessible through the Cosmic Ray Database of the Asi-Ssdc center, are continuously used by the scientific community to understand the evolution mechanisms of the Universe, the origin of cosmic rays and their propagation.

“The measurements of Ams-02 have improved knowledge of the properties of cosmic rays and allowed a greater understanding of the origins and propagation of cosmic particles”, remembers Barbara Negri , head of the Human Flight and Scientific Experimentation Unit at the Science and Research Department by Asi. «Following the intervention carried out by Luca Parmitano, Ams-02 will be able to continue to collect data in the coming years to carry out this ambitious scientific research».

“In its first ten years of operation, Ams-02 revolutionized the direct measurement of cosmic ray fluxes, producing measurements of a precision never achieved before”, comments Paolo Zuccon , professor at the University of Trento, member of Infn-Tifpa and national manager of Ams-02. “The instrument will continue to take data until at least 2028 and thanks to its powerful magnet it will collect measurements of the particles of cosmic anti-matter that can open the door to new discoveries.”

To know more:

Watch MediaInaf Tv’s 2019 video service on Ams-02 repair:

Featured image: The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer 02 (Ams-02), the largest particle detector operating in space, housed on the International Space Station (ISS). Credits: Nasa

Provided by INAF

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