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Scientists develop detector for investigating the Sun

Scientists develop detector for investigating the sun
Device prototype: (1) the body of the detector consisting of scintillation disks, (2) fiber optics in a protective coating, (3) control boards for managing offset voltage and data acquisition, (4) prototype frame and stand for ground-based observations. Credit: Egor Stadnichuk et al./Journal of Instrumentation

Researchers from MIPT have developed a prototype detector of solar particles. The device is capable of picking up protons at kinetic energies between 10 and 100 megaelectronvolts, and electrons at 1-10 MeV. This covers most of the high-energy particle flux coming from the Sun. The new detector can improve radiation protection for astronauts and spaceships, as well as advancing our understanding of solar flares. The research findings are reported in the Journal of Instrumentation.

As energy gets converted from one form to another in the active regions of the solar atmosphere, streams of particles—or cosmic rays—are born with energies roughly between 0.01-1,000 MeV. Most of these particles are electrons and protons, but nuclei from helium to iron are also observed, albeit in far smaller numbers.

The current consensus is that the particle flux has two principal components. First, there are the narrow streams of electrons in brief flares lasting from tens of minutes to several hours. And then there are the flares with broad shockwaves, which last up to several days and mostly contain protons, with some occasional heavier nuclei.

Despite the vast arrays of data supplied by solar orbiters, some fundamental questions remain unresolved. Scientists do not yet understand the specific mechanisms behind particle acceleration in the shorter- and longer-duration solar flares. It is also unclear what the role of magnetic reconnection is for particles as they accelerate and leave the solar corona, or how and where the initial particle populations originate before accelerating on impact waves. To answer these questions, researchers require particle detectors of a novel type, which would also underlie new spaceship security protocols that would recognize the initial wave of electrons as an early warning of the impending proton radiation hazard.

A recent study by a team of physicists from MIPT and elsewhere reports the creation of a prototype detector of high-energy particles. The device consists of multiple polystyrene disks, connected to photodetectors. As a particle passes through polystyrene, it loses some of its kinetic energy and emits light, which is registered by a silicon photodetector as a signal for subsequent computer analysis.

The project’s principal investigator Alexander Nozik from the Nuclear Physics Methods Laboratory at MIPT said: “The concept of plastic scintillation detectors is not new, and such devices are ubiquitous in Earth-based experiments. What enabled the notable results we achieved is using a segmented detector along with our own mathematical reconstruction methods.”

Part of the paper in the Journal of Instrumentation deals with optimizing the detector segment geometry. The dilemma is that while larger disks mean more particles analyzed at any given time, this comes at the cost of instrument weight, making its delivery into orbit more expensive. Disk resolution also drops as the diameter increases. As

Authorities investigating after Willamette University student, 19, found dead in Salem park

Authorities are investigating the death of a 19-year-old Willamette University student who was found dead early this month in a Salem park.

Salem police said hikers found Abigail Agustin-Paz dead in Minto-Brown Island Park on Oct. 2. No information about the circumstances or cause of her death has been released.

The independent, student-run Collegian newspaper reported last week that Salem police investigators had visited the private university campus.

The university’s president said there were “no elevated safety concerns” for the campus, city or Minto-Brown Island Park in an email to students last week, according to the newspaper.

Agustin-Paz was from Wood Village, police said. She held multiple leadership positions and worked at the Bistro Willamette coffee shop, the Collegian reported.

She also called this past summer for Salem-Keizer Public Schools to divest money used to police students and invest those funds into Black and indigenous student education, according to the Statesman Journal. She was among hundreds who called on a pair of school board members to resign, as well, the newspaper reported.

An online crowdfunding campaign in her name has raised $15,716 of its $20,000 goal, as of Tuesday morning.

Salem police have asked anyone who has information about Agustin-Paz’s death to call 503-588-8477.

— Jim Ryan; 503-221-8005; @Jimryan015

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Homicide team investigating death of man after altercation on Trinity Western University campus

B.C.’s largest homicide unit is investigating the death of a 31-year-old man who was found unresponsive on the campus of Trinity Western University in Langley.

The man was involved in an altercation with campus security on Sept. 30, according to a release from the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team.

The release says Langley RCMP officers were called to Trinity Western University just before 3 p.m. for a report of an agitated man on campus. When police arrived, the man was found unresponsive and taken to hospital.

IHIT took over the investigation several days after the incident. 

“Investigators believe this was an isolated incident, not related to the ongoing Lower Mainland Gang Conflict and that there are no ongoing public safety concerns,” said Detective Lara Jansen of IHIT in the written release.  “This investigation is in its early stages, however there are no further updates at this time.” 

The homicide team is also working with the Langley RCMP, Integrated Forensic Identification Services and the BC Coroners Service to gather evidence.

Anyone with information is asked to call the IHIT information line at 1-877-551-4448 or by email at Those wishing to remain anonymous can contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

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