China to build high altitude observatory

Chengdu, Sep 11 (IANS) China will invest more than one billion yuan (about $157 million) to build a high altitude observatory to monitor cosmic rays, authorities said on Friday.

The observatory, the second of its kind in China, will be built in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Garze in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, said Cao Zhen, a research fellow with the Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP) under Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The Garze government and IHEP inked an agreement on Wednesday that will see the observatory built on Haizi Mountain in Daocheng County, where the average altitude is 4,410 metres, Xinhua reported.

“With an acute gamma ray detector, it is the world’s second most expensive cosmic ray observatory, after the IceCube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica,” said Cao Zhen.

The observatory will be able to cover an area of one million square metres, detecting rays whose energy range from one billion trillion to 10,000 billion trillion volts.

Cao didn’t give a timetable for construction of the observatory.

Discovered in 1912, cosmic rays are high energy charged particles from outer space that travel at nearly the speed of light and strike the Earth from all directions. The study of cosmic rays could help people learn about supernova explosions, black holes and the origin of the universe.

Study of cosmic rays began in China in 1951. Currently, most research is done in the Yangbajain cosmic rays monitoring station in Tibet.

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