Thirty students have temporarily turned into astrophysicists

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On Friday, March 8, scientists from the Institute of Physics explained the secrets of cosmic rays and how to measure them at the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina to nearly thirty high school students.

The popular international event Masterclasses Hands on Particle Physics is traditionally organized by the Faculty of Nuclear and Physical Engineering of the Czech Technical University together with the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics of Charles University and since last year also with the participation of the Institute of Physics of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

"This is the second time and we are very happy that our colleagues from the Faculty of Nuclear and Physical Engineering have invited us again to organize AUGER Masterclasses together with them. This year's students were really great and they came from 15 high schools from all over the country from Český Těšín to Tachov. We believe that we will soon find new collaborators among them," evaluates the importance of the event RNDr. Petr Trávníček, Ph.D., who is in charge of the event on behalf of FZU.

The organizers prepared a varied program for the participants, which included not only theoretical lectures, but also practical exercises with experts. The morning block of lectures was opened by the doyen of astrophysics RNDr. Jiří Grygar, CSc., who recalled how he established cooperation with the Pierre Auger Observatory and how his PhD student, the current FZU director, Michael Prouza, created the FRAM telescope, thanks to which it is possible to very accurately detect the amount of aerosols in the atmosphere, which is the key information necessary to correctly reconstruct the detected cosmic ray showers.

Exploring the mysteries of the universe

Mgr. Jan Ebr, Ph.D., focused his lecture Particle and Astroparticle Physics on the interaction of particles at extremely high energies in cosmic ray showers and explained to the students the discrepancies between the observed behaviour of particles and the predictions of current models. RNDr. Martina Boháčová, Ph.D. introduced the students to the unique work carried out at the Pierre Auger Observatory, including interesting practical aspects such as the maintenance of the observatory's fluorescence detector. The experimental part of the program, which resided in searching for the direction of arrival of the most interesting cosmic ray showers, was conducted by Mgr. Margita Kubátová.

After each of the lectures, the speakers evaluated the questions asked by the students and the best ones were rewarded with special prizes – the most interesting questions included those directed to the detection of neutrinos, neutrino oscillations and sources of extremely energetic cosmic particles.

Final international videoconference

The final part of the event connected the participants in an international videoconference with Portuguese students from Braga. The videoconference was moderated by scientists from the observatory and one of them was connected directly from the Malargüe control centre. For the Czech party, this section was led by a PhD student at the of Nuclear and Physical Engineering and FZU, Ing. Alena Bakalová, who was also the main organizer of the whole day.  The students had the opportunity to discuss new experience and share the knowledge they gained during the event.

We would like to thank all the participating students and the organizers for their tireless work and enthusiasm they brought to the whole event. We look forward to the next edition, which will bring us new opportunities for learning and discovery.