New Discoveries by CRD Physicists
By Joseph Dagdigian
In April 2012 the head of Armenia’s Cosmic Ray Division (CRD) and director of the Yerevan Physics Institute, Prof. Ashot Chilingarian, was invited to the European Space Agency center in Italy. A conference there was devoted to the Italian “AGILE” space satellite mission which discovered many unexpected astrophysical phenomena during its 5 years of scientific exploration. Discoveries included unexpected flares from the Crab Nebula – the debris resulting from the explosion or “supernova” of a massive star which occurred about 1000 years ago. The Crab Nebula had always, and apparently wrongly, been assumed to be a constant, unvarying source of radiation which astronomers relied upon to calibrate their measurements. Also discussed at this conference was the recently discovered phenomenon of Terrestrial Gamma Ray Flashes (TGFs) in which thunderclouds emit high energy radiation previously assumed to originate only from space. Through mechanisms not completely understood, electrons are accelerated from thunderstorms into outer space.
Particle fluxes (radiation of subatomic particles) from thunderclouds are a very important and yet poorly understood phenomenon which is intensively researched both from space and from high altitude mountain research stations. CRD’s Aragats research station atop Mt. Aragats has assumed a leading position in this branch of research. Prof. Chilingarian presented CRD’s latest research results on fluxes of electrons, gamma rays, and neutrons measured on Mt. Aragats. Discussed were energy spectra and physical models of Thunderstorm Ground Enhancements (TGEs) in which high energy electrons are accelerated both downward towards the earth, and upward towards space, from within thundercloud formations. Much of the research on this phenomenon is conducted by young CRD scientists. Recent PhD recipient Bagrat Mailyan’s doctoral dissertation characterizing this phenomenon shed a great deal of light on this subject within the international science community.
Numerous particle detectors and electric field meters located on the slopes of mountain Aragats and in Yerevan continuously monitor changing geophysical conditions. A new planned geophysical station near Lake Sevan, with three existing stations on the slopes of Mt. Aragats, will monitor particle fluxes from the sun, thunderclouds, and our galaxy as well as magnetic and electrical fields and lightning occurrences. CRD will issue alerts and forewarnings on upcoming dangerous consequences of space weather events and thunder-storms.
In series of 3 papers published by the journal of American Physical society, “Physical Review”, Armenian physicists reported new phenomena manifested by a number of physical effects. These included large fluxes of electron and gamma radiation, neutron radiation, short microsecond bursts of electron radiation coinciding with negatively charged electric fields near the earth’s surface, and reduced lightning between clouds and the ground along with increased lightning within clouds. The most recent paper was published on April 16, 2012.
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