CERN Axion Solar Telescope
The CERN Axion Solar Telescope (CAST) is an experiment in astroparticle physics to search for axions originating from the Sun. The experiment, sited at CERN in Switzerland, came online in 2002 with the first data-taking run starting in May 2003. The successful detection of solar axions would constitute a major discovery in particle physics, and would also open up a brand new window on the astrophysics of the solar core.
CAST is currently the most sensitive axion helioscope.
Theory Of Operation
If the axions exist, they may be produced in the Sun's core when X-rays scatter off electrons and protons in the presence of strong electric fields. The experimental setup is built around a 9.26 m long decommissioned test magnet for the LHC capable of producing a field of up to 9.5 T. This strong magnetic field is expected to convert solar axions back into X-rays for subsequent detection by X-ray detectors. The telescope observes the Sun for about 1.5 hours at sunrise and another 1.5 hours at sunset each day. The remaining 21 hours, with the instrument pointing away from the Sun, are spent measuring background axion levels.
CAST began operation in 2003 searching for axions up to 0.02 eV. In 2005, Helium-4 was added to the magnet, extending sensitivity to masses up to 0.39 eV, then Helium-3 was used during 2008–2011 for masses up to 1.15 eV. CAST then ran with vacuum again searching for axions below 0.02 eV.
As of 2014, CAST has not turned up definitive evidence for solar axions. It has considerably narrowed down the range of parameters where these elusive particles may exist. CAST has set significant limits on axion coupling to electrons and photons.
CAST has three different detectors working on detecting the X-rays generated when the axions converts to them. Time Projection Chamber (TPC), an X-ray Telescope, and a Micromegas are three of these detectors.
This detector operated during the period of 2002-2004. It is a gaseous detector and was primarily employed for to detect X-rays in the energy range of 1-10 KeV. The detector itself was made up of low radioactive materials. The choice of material was mainly based on reducing the background noise, and Micromegas achieved a background rejection of Counts without any shielding.
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- Anastassopoulos, V.; et al. (CAST Collaboration) (2017). "New CAST limit on the axion-photon interaction". Nature Physics. 13 (6): 584–590. arXiv:1705.02290. Bibcode:2017NatPh..13..584A. doi:10.1038/nphys4109.
- "CERN points giant magnet at the Sun to look for dark matter particles". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
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