Design and application of a pc interfaced Cosmic Ray detection system for secondary school physics programs.
A great deal of current cosmic ray research focuses on those in the ultra high energy regime (>1018 eV). Though interesting in their own right, they also have implications in astronomy and cosmology. The arrival frequency of these particles is on the order of one per square kilometer per century. Such a low number of arrivals requires the construction of detectors that are capable of uninterrupted observation over an area of hundreds of square kilometers. Several detectors already exist, such as AUGER, and AGASA. One proposed detection system involves placing a large number of small detectors in high schools located across large distances. The construction and operation of these detectors is to be part of educational outreach intended to generate interest in physics and science. While this makes labor and finding locations easy, it introduces several new complications such as the training of staff at a pre-college level. Despite being small and robust as compared to their commercial counterparts, these detectors can be fairly imposing to a high school level audience. This project aims to build an intermediate detection system by which high school teachers and students can learn the basics of cosmic ray research without significant commitment of time or capital. Ideally this detection system would be offered as a kit which, under the supervision of a teacher, a high school student could build and test themselves. The main piece of technology that facilitates such a detector to be offered at low cost is the use of an embedded microcontroller such as PICmicro ® Microcontrollers . This allows for most of the engineering to be done on the software level which can be freely distributed over the Internet.