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Benjamin Dean Astronomy Lectures
Detecting the Highest Energy Gamma Rays with an Observatory Made of Water
Brenda Dingus, Los Alamos National Laboratory
The High Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) observatory, which is located at 14000’ elevation in central Mexico, began operating in March 2015 and is detecting the highest energy gamma rays ever observed. These gamma rays come from supermassive black holes in distant galaxies as well as sources within the Milky Way galaxy, such as the winds produced by rapidly rotating neutron stars and the remnants of supernovae explosions. These sources are Nature’s particle accelerators, and some produce particles with energies millions of times greater than man-made accelerators. The high energy gamma rays probe the astrophysics of the extreme gravitational and electromagnetic fields of these particle accelerators as well as providing a unique to window to search for dark matter such as predicted in some high energy physics theories. In this talk Dr. Dingus will describe how this unique observatory works and what we are learning about astrophysics and high energy physics from the observations of HAWC.