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Preprint 06/09

Observing ultra-high-energy cosmic particles from space: S-EUSO, the Super-Extreme Universe Space Observatory Mission

A. Santangelo (1) and A. Petrolini (2)

(1) Institut für Astronomie und Astrophysik, Kepler Center for Astro and Particle Physics, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Sand 1, 72076 Tübingen, Germany
(2) Dipartimento di Fisica dell'Università di Genova and Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN), Sezione di Genova, Via Dodecaneso 33, 16146 Genova, Italia

New J. Phys. 11 (2009), 065010

Abstract. The experimental search for ultra-high-energy cosmic messengers, from E~1019 eV to beyond E~1020 eV, at the very end of the known energy spectrum, constitutes an extraordinary opportunity to explore a largely unknown aspect of our universe. Key scientific goals are the identification of the sources of ultra-high-energy particles, the measurement of their spectra and the study of galactic and local intergalactic magnetic fields. Ultra-high-energy particles might, also, carry evidence of unknown physics or of exotic particles that are relics of the early universe.
To meet this challenge a significant increase in the integrated exposure is required. This implies a new class of experiments with larger acceptances and good understanding of the systematic uncertainties. Space-based observatories can reach the instantaneous aperture and the integrated exposure necessary to systematically explore the ultra high-energy universe.
In this paper, we focus on the Super Extreme Universe Space Observatory S-EUSO, a mission concept developed in the framework of the first Announcement of Opportunity of the 'Cosmic Vision 2015-2025' program, the long-term science plan of the European Space Agency. S-EUSO will observe from space, in a free flyer configuration, the extensive air showers produced by ultra-high-energy primaries that traverse the Earth atmosphere. From a variable altitude orbit of 800-1100 km, S-EUSO will have an instantaneous geometrical aperture of Ageo≥2×106 km2 sr with an estimated duty cycle in the range 10-20%. In this paper, after briefly summarizing the science case of the mission, we describe the scientific goals and requirements of the S-EUSO concept. We then introduce the S-EUSO observational approach and describe the main instrument and mission features. We conclude by discussing the expected performanc e of the mission.


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