Monday, July 29, 2013

World’s largest gamma-ray telescope to be built in Russia’s Buryatia

The Tunka Valley, the Republic of Buryatia. Eastern Siberia, Russia  June, 2012 Photo by Anna Ulyanova, Irkutsk

Astrophysicists from the Irkutsk State University have begun the construction of the world’s largest gamma-ray telescope Tunka-HiSCORE in the Tunka Valley in Buryatia, close to Russia’s border with Mongolia. “The telescope that has no analogues in the world will register ultrahigh energy particles coming from the Universe,” the press service of the Irkutsk State University said. The site will feature ten optical stations and 20 stations to register charged particles. Such particles are born “when cosmic rays and ultrahigh energy gamma photons enter the atmosphere,” scientists say. German-made equipment will be used in these detectors. The cost of this equipment is 92 million roubles. The bulk of the expenses will be covered by a grant Irkutsk’s researchers won in April.

According to the press service, the works involve 25 students, post graduates and researchers from the University’s department of physics and the Research Institute of Applied Physics. The project leader is Razmik Mirzoyan, an acclaimed astrophysicist from the Max Planck Institute for Physics in Germany’s Munich.

The Tunka Valley is already home to several large-scale experiments to study cosmic rays and gamma rays. The site is currently being run by Russian and German astrophysicists and has about 175 photomultiplier stations hunting for Cherenkov radiation on moonless and cloudless nights. The technique used here is different from traditional imaging telescopes, it allows for a greater sensitivity thanks to a large area of detection, since the devices are spread over three square kilometers.

Now, the observatory will be expanded to include 1,000 detectors spread across at least ten square kilometers in the next three years. The overall cost of Tunka HiSCORE’s first phase is about 200 million roubles. This year, it is planned to mount a test device of 20 detectors. A one-square-kilometer telescope will be built by 2015.

Phase two of the project is to mount at least 2,000 detectors. The cost will go up to 1.5-3 billion roubles.



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