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  • Penguins walk along a path in Antarctica, Feb. 14, 2018.

    Penguins walk along a path in Antarctica, Feb. 14, 2018. | Photo: Reuters file

Published 31 January 2019

The device will provide real-time data on solar wind conditions and activity.

Researchers from the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (Conicet) have developed Argentina's first cosmic-ray detector to be installed in Antarctica. The one-ton device, whose name is "Neurus," was built together with other experts from the Argentine Antarctic Institute (AAI) and the departments of Atmospheric and Oceanographic Sciences and Physics of the University of Buenos Aires (UBA).

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"This detector's applications are multiple... We carry out a characterization of the effect that the atmosphere has on this cascade of particles, which develops from the primary cosmic rays that come from outer space, and observe the flows of secondary particles," Sergio Dasso, an Argentine physicist who leads the project, said and explained that the "monitoring of data in real time will be relevant to determine if the radiation levels are reasonable or very high and if it is necessary to make decisions in rerouting or canceling polar flights, for example."

In the next two months, the scientific team will install their detector in "Marambio," which is one of 13 research bases operated by Argentina frequently used due to its suitability for wheeled landing.

The cosmic rays are messengers of galactic or extragalactic objects since they are particles that carry information about what happens in the solar system and beyond.

"That's where astronomy fuses with the physics of space... we are interested in understanding the flow of cosmic rays, its variability and its link to solar wind conditions and activity," Dasso pointed out, adding that "we are very excited because we are going to install and perform the first measurements from a device that was fully developed in our country." 

The Argentine project is framed in the Latin American Giant Observatory (LAGO), which is a non-centralized and distributed collaborative network of more than 80 scientists in 8 countries in the region.

The detector will work with a container that fills with water, and when a space particle with electric charge passes, the container is flooded with light which creates an effect called "Cherenkov radiation in water."

The light will then be detected with a signal amplifier and transformed into an electronic signal, which will be in turn stored in a computer.

The Neurus scientific team also includes Adriana Gulisano from the AAI; Omar Areso, an electronics and mechanics expert from the Institute of Astronomy and Space Physics (IAFE); and Matias Pereira, a computer expert at the same institute.

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