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Press Release



October 10, 2016


Cowley College to participate in international science collaboration


On November 2, 2016 the International Cosmic Day will take place for the fifth time.

Students worldwide will investigate cosmic rays. Astroparticle physics, the science utilizing cosmic rays as messengers of yet unsolved puzzles of the Universe, is still a young field of research. Teenagers, teachers and scientists will get together on the International Cosmic Day to discuss about these puzzles and to investigate these particles that constantly surround us.

For the first time two collaborations from high-energy and astroparticle physics will join and analyze their experimental data. The event is initiated by the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY in cooperation with Netzwerk Teilchenwelt in Germany and the research center Fermilab with its teachers' network QuarkNet in the US.

Cowley College will join this research collaboration for the fourth year. Previous years have used students from the Math and Science Club and interested physics students to research and share their results with the collaboration and even present at various conferences. This year should provide new opportunities for student to experience science the way it is done in real life.

With the detectors which have been specifically designed for students the young researches get the chance to detect cosmic rays themselves. If particles from outer space hit the Earth's atmosphere they produce new particles, called muons. The central question on the International Cosmic Day will be the arrival direction of those muons. Do muons reach us from all directions equally since outer space surrounds us?

Scientists and teachers help to plan and realize the measurements and to analyze and present the data. Following the question “What did we measure and why?” the students will quickly learn to play the roles of scientists. The groups of students participating worldwide can develop and discuss ideas together in video chats several times during the day. The presentation of the results is one of the most important steps of the project just like in a real international collaboration.

Cowley Students will have the opportunity to learn about high energy particle physics and the standard model of the atom before being introduced to the Quarknet cosmic ray detector. They will then design their experiment based on the parameters established by the event. After collecting their data and determining the results of their data, they will share their data in an early morning video conference with the team that usually includes CERN, DESY and other student groups from Europe and Asia. Later that afternoon, they will participate in another video conference with Fermilab and students from across the USA. Their final product will include an article that will be published with all the other student groups participating.

A novelty this year is the participation of scientists from the two renowned collaborations ATLAS and IceCube, who will analyze their data regarding the questions addressed by the International Cosmic Day. ATLAS is a high-energy experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and focuses on the investigation of the fundamental forces of nature. For this goal protons are accelerated and brought to collision to measure the resulting particles. The astroparticle physics experiment IceCube detects the elusive neutrinos from far-away sources. It explores the physics at exploding stars, gamma-ray bursts, and other origins of high-energy neutrinos. While both experiments follow different aims, they both also detect the ever-present muon.