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Muon measurements at the Pierre Auger Observatory

Dariusz Góra

SciPost Phys. Proc. 15, 020 (2024) · published 3 April 2024

Proceedings event

51st International Symposium on Multiparticle Dynamics


The Pierre Auger Observatory is the world's largest detector for observation of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays (UHECRs) (above the energy of $10^{17}$ eV). It consists of a Fluorescence Detector (FD) and an array of particle detectors known as the Surface Detector (SD). Observations of extensive air showers by the Observatory can be used to probe hadronic interactions at high energy, in a kinematic and energy region inaccessible to experiments at man-made accelerators and to measure the muon component of the shower. Air showers induced by different primaries have different muon contents. With increasing mass of the primary cosmic ray particle, it is expected that the muon content in the corresponding air showers should also increase. Therefore, the determination of the muon component in the air shower is crucial to infer the mass of the primary particle. This is a key ingredient in the searches conducted to pinpoint the sources of UHECRs. Recent results obtained from the Pierre Auger Observatory and other experiments indicate that all the shower simulations underestimate the number of muons in the showers compared to the data. This is the so-called muon deficit. In this paper we briefly review the muon measurements, and present in more detail recent results on fluctuations in the muon number. These results provide new insights into the origin of the muon deficit in air shower simulations and constrain the models of hadronic interactions at ultrahigh energies. With the current design of the surface detectors it is also difficult to reliably separate the contributions of muons to the SD signal from the contributions of photons, electrons, and positrons. Therefore, we also present a new method to extract the muon component of the signal time traces recorded by each SD station using recurrent neural networks. The combination of such algorithms, with the future data collected by the upgraded Pierre Auger Observatory, will be a major step forward, as we are likely to achieve an unprecedented resolution in mass estimation on an event-by-event basis.

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