On the Track of Cosmic Radiation


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Dr. Eli Waxman

Every year, a billion high-energy messages bombard the earth in the form of cosmic radiation of unknown origin. Each of these messages is composed of a single proton carrying concentrated energy a hundred million times greater than could be generated by the most powerful particle accelerators. In many ways, these are the most energy-packed particles in the universe. Where do they come from? What endows them with such energy and speed? These are the questions that preoccupy Dr. Eli Waxman of the Weizmann Institute's Condensed Matter Physics Department. "The astronomical bodies we are familiar with are not capable of accelerating particles to such speeds," he says. "It is therefore clear that the source of the radiation must be from outside our own galaxy. So far, we have been unable to pinpoint such a possible source."

This ongoing mystery has led Waxman to suggest a new theory linking the highest energy cosmic radiation phenomena to bursts of gamma rays reaching the earth every day. These bursts originate from a highly energetic source on the fringes of the known universe. According to Waxman's model, the source of both gamma rays and cosmic radiation is an object _ with a mass similar to that of our own sun _ presently collapsing into a black hole. Their varied arrival times stem from magnetic fields that detain the protons. An American research satellite and radiation detector complexes to be set up in Japan, the United States, Argentina, and the South Pole, will attempt to prove this theory in the near future.


Dr. Eli Waxman Born - Kfar Saba, Israel Ph.D. - Hebrew University of Jerusalem Postdoctoral research - Princeton Institute of Advanced Studies, New Jersey Weizmann Institute of Science - Since 1998