The Earth is continuously bombarded by high energy particles coming from outer space. The first serious experiments were in 1912, when Victor Hess went up in a balloon to measure the rates of these particles. These particles generate showers in the atmosphere. The sources of these particles in terms of physics processes and production locations are still not well known. The rates at which the high energy ones occur is also not well known.
Large scientific collaborations are studying the rates of the (ultra) high energy showers. Showers are measured by looking for coincidences between hits in detectors. Time differences give information on the angle that the shower makes with respect to the detector system. Measuring the total pulse height of the signals in the detectors gives a density profile that allows a reliable estimation of the shower energy. For the latter to work (and this is where the most interesting physics is) the ideal set up is a set of detectors making triangles with a side of ~1km.
In HiSparc, cosmic ray detectors are placed on schools. These detectors are delivered as DIY kits. Students build the systems themselves. The kit contains all the parts needed to build the system including cables, material to fix the boxes to the roof, etc. All the school needs to provide is power, a PC and an internet connection. The system comes either with 2 or 4 detectors.
The data is written to a central database. The students work in a large international collaboration and develop analysis tools in JAVA. These tools and all the data are made available to the entire community. The DAQ soft- and firmware is automatically updated remotely. HiSparc experts can also remotely log in to a station and study its performance and diagnose problems.
Some of the simple physics one can do includes measuring rates as a function of energy, rate variations as a function of the time of day, rate versus latitude, angular dependence of showers, looking for sources, etc. Many HiSparc systems now also have a weather station integrated as there are many models predicting different rates of cosmic particles depending on the weather; especially thunder storms. As another example, there are serious physics models that predict energetic showers occurring simultaneously that are separated by up to ~40km. Currently, there are not many detector systems that can measure those.
HiSparc is NOT a system/project with a limited physics reach. Students and teachers do serious, new research and do not go through a list of plots that they can make and are then finished.
HiSparc is active in Bristol. If you are interested, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more about HiSparc.