The cosmic ray primary composition in the energy range between 1015 and 1016 eV, i.e., around the "knee" of the primary spectrum, has been studied through the combined measurements of the EAS-TOP air shower array (2005 m a.s.l., 105 m2 collecting area) and the MACRO underground detector (963 m a.s.l., 3100 m w.e. of minimum rock overburden, 920 m2 effective area) at the National Gran Sasso Laboratories. The used observables are the air shower size (Ne) measured by EAS-TOP and the muon number (Nμ) recorded by MACRO. The two detectors are separated on average by 1200 m of rock, and located at a respective zenith angle of about 30°. The energy threshold at the surface for muons reaching the MACRO depth is approximately 1.3 TeV. Such muons are produced in the early stages of the shower development and in a kinematic region quite different from the one relevant for the usual Nμ-Ne studies. The measurement leads to a primary composition becoming heavier at the knee of the primary spectrum, the knee itself resulting from the steepening of the spectrum of a primary light component (p, He) of Δγ= 0.7±0.4 at E0∼4×1015 eV. The result confirms the ones reported from the observation of the low energy muons at the surface (typically in the GeV energy range), showing that the conclusions do not depend on the production region kinematics. Thus, the hadronic interaction model used (CORSIKA/QGSJET) provides consistent composition results from data related to secondaries produced in a rapidity region exceeding the central one. Such an evolution of the composition in the knee region supports the "standard" galactic acceleration/propagation models that imply rigidity dependent breaks of the different components, and therefore breaks occurring at lower energies in the spectra of the light nuclei.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||12|
|State||Published - Mar 2004|