In DepthAstrophysics

Cosmic ray catcher will probe supernovae from new perch

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Science  04 Aug 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6350, pp. 437-438
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6350.437

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After 191 days aboard balloons sailing the stratosphere, an experiment designed to probe the galaxy's natural particle accelerators will move to higher ground: the International Space Station (ISS). The Cosmic Ray Energetics and Mass (CREAM) instrument and its successors floated above Antarctica seven times to collect high-energy cosmic rays, charged particles like protons and helium nuclei thought to be flung off by the shock waves of distant supernovae. But on 13 August, the NASA detector is set to ride a SpaceX rocket to the ISS, where it will gain both a cleaner view of the cosmos and, crucially, a chance to collect cosmic rays for years. That should allow ISS-CREAM, as it is now called, to collect rarer, higher-energy cosmic rays in numbers large enough to trace the energy level where the power of supernova shock waves peters out.