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Astronomy Week

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Monday & Tuesday (Oct 15 & 16): Telescopes in the Park at Liberty Park, 11:00 am - 3:00 pm

Join the University of Utah Astronomy Outreach Group to view the Sun through specialized telescopes! Learn more...

Wednesday, October 17: Star Party, 8:30 pm - 11:30 pm

Let our observatory guides take you on a tour of the night sky! Learn more...

Thursday & Friday (Oct. 18-19) Astronomy Activities at the Natural History Museum of Utah, 12:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Come explore astronomy through hands-on activities and demonstrations! Look through telescopes and meet a "Dark Ranger" from Bryce Canyon National Park! Learn more...

Saturday October 20: Astrofest at Clark Planetarium 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Learn more about telescopes and how astronomers make discoveries with a variety of presentations and activities! Learn more...


Monica Allen Thesis Defense 10/15/12

Thesis Defense

Monica Allen

Monday, October 15, 2012
12:00pm (110 INSCC)

Title: Ultra High Energy Cosmic Ray Energy Spectrum and Composition using Hybrid Analysis with Telescope Array


Cosmic radiation was discovered in 1912. This year, the 100th anniversary of the discovery, marks not only the major progress that has been made in understanding these particles, but also the remaining questions about them. Questions about their sources, acceleration mechanisms, propagation and composition are still unanswered. There are only two experiments currently running which have the ability to study cosmic rays in the Ultra High Energy (E > 1018 eV) regime.

The Telescope Array studies Ultra High Energy Cosmic Rays (UHECRs) using a hybrid detector. Fluorescence telescopes measure the longitudinal development of the extensive air shower generated by a primary cosmic ray particle, while scintillator detectors measure the lateral distribution of secondary particles that hit the ground. The Middle Drum (MD) fluorescence telescope consists of 14 refurbished telescopes from the High Resolution Fly's Eye (HiRes) experiment, providing a direct link back to the HiRes experiment and data. The surface array is comprised of 507 Scintillator Detectors (SD) of a similar design as was used by the Akeno Giant Air Shower Array

(AGASA), providing a link to that experiment as well. Using events observed by both types of detectors improves the geometrical reconstruction of the showers significantly. This provides a more accurate reconstruction of the energy of the primary particle and makes it possible to make a measurement of the cosmic ray chemical composition. The spectral and composition measurements made by this hybrid detector will be presented.


This Week's Colloquium: John Krizmanic, Oct. 18, 2012

John Krizmanic

Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012
102 JFB

Refreshments: 3:30 pm in 219 JFB
Lecture 4:00pm (102 JFB)

Title: Phase Fresnel Lens Development for X-ray & Gamma-Ray Astronomy


Angular resolution and effective area are two key parameters that define the performance of a telescope. Historically, X-ray and gamma-ray telescopes have not achieved the angular resolution and flux sensitivity possible at longer wavelengths due to the difficulty in collecting and focusing high-energy photons. Currently, the best imaging ability in the X-ray band is given by the Chandra telescope, which has achieved sub-arcsecond imaging below 10 keV. The use of diffractive optics, especially Phase Fresnel Lenses (PFLs), offers a path to significantly improved high-energy performance. In principle, PFLs can achieve diffraction-limited angular resolution, which is orders of magnitude better than the current state-of-the-art, with high throughput at X-ray and gamma-ray energies, and the capability of scaling to meter-size dimensions. Micro-arcsecond angular resolution in the X-ray and gamma-ray band is achievable, which would allow for the direct imaging of the event horizon surrounding Black Holes. We have successfully fabricated PFLs in silicon using Micro-Electro-Mechanical-System (MEMS) fabrication techniques and measured near diffraction-limited performance at X-ray energies at the GSFC 600-meter Interferometry Testbed. The results demonstrate the superior imaging potential in the X-ray/gamma-ray energy band for PFL-based optics in a format that is scalable for astronomical applications.

In this talk I will discuss the astronomical motivation for improving in X-ray and gamma-ray imaging performance, the physics principles behind diffractive optics, our fabrication and characterization of PFLs, and describe potential space-based telescopes employing these optics.


University of Utah Awarded $1 Million By Keck Foundation to Study Cosmic Rays

John Belz, radar project director & research associate professor.

Grant Will Assist Researchers in Developing New Radar Technique to Study Origin, Energy, and Composition of Universe's Most Energetic Particles

The University of Utah today announced that the W.M. Keck Foundation awarded $1 million to university researchers to study high-energy cosmic rays in Utah’s western deserts that are hurtling their way toward Earth. These rays — 10 trillion times more energetic than particles emitted in a nuclear explosion — originate from violent cosmic events deep within the universe.

The Keck grant will assist a team of researchers in developing a new tool for understanding how the universe evolved. Employing a technique known as “Bistatic Radar,” researchers will attempt to use analog television transmitters and high-speed digital receivers to observe the range, direction and strength of high-energy particles in order to track these rays back to their point of origin. Bistatic Radar will be much less expensive than traditional cosmic ray detection techniques, which employ surface radiation detectors covering thousands of square kilometers of the Earth’s surface and cost tens of millions of dollars.

The new facility created under the auspices of this grant will be known as The W.M. Keck Radar Observatory. The Keck Radar Observatory will be located in Millard County Utah, where it will initially be co-located with Utah’s Telescope Array, currently the largest “conventional” cosmic ray observatory in the Northern Hemisphere. This will enable comparison of the Keck Observatory’s findings with those of a conventional observatory on an event-by-event basis and allow for the evaluation of radar scattering models.

Utah’s western deserts offer low levels of light pollution and atmospheric aerosols, making Utah an ideal location for detecting and studying cosmic rays. In addition, Utah’s deserts are highly “radio-quiet” with low levels of human-generated high-frequency interference, which makes it uniquely suitable for tests of the radar technique.

“We are at the frontier in our understanding of the origin of the universe’s most energetic particles,” said John Belz, radar project director and research associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Utah. “These particles are hundreds of thousands of times more energetic than particles emitted from supernova explosions. Our main goal is to understand the origins of these rare cosmic rays, in order to gain a better understanding of some of the most violent processes shaping the universe.”


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