• IFAE
  • IFAE

Cosmic rays detection, astrophysics at your fingertips

The Project

Cosmic rays are particles that are constantly bombarding the Earth. We do not know where they come from, but what we do know is that when they reach the atmosphere they produce a large amount of particles, some of which can be detected. Some of these are the so called muons. But, what are muons? How can we detect them? What can we learn from cosmic rays? You will become an experimental physicist by building your own muon detector.

In this project, you will learn how particles interact with matter, how they are created and destroyed in the atmosphere, what is a particle shower, how particle detectors work and what other purposes can we use them for.

Participants will have the opportunity to build a muon detector using plastic scintillators and silicon photomultipliers. You will go through the basics about particle detection and will have the chance to understand what is the role of each component in the detector. How we can catch the particles we want to observe and reject those we want to avoid. You will learn about light detection, properties of materials and readout electronics working hand by hand with IFAE researchers. The detector we are going to build is meant to be portable, so that it can be taken outside and see what it can tell us about everyday life. You will also design and perform experiments to understand the behavior of muons and cosmic rays in the atmosphere.

In summary, you will become an experimental physicist by designing your setup, answering your questions, and asking yourself new ones. Only when we understand how the detector work in detail we can then go out and ask nature about the behavior of cosmic rays. Only then we can think on other applications. Building and understanding detectors is crucial to make experiments with them. And to trigger your imagination.

Matching profiles

Physics, astrophysics, informatics, computer sciences, electronics, engineering

Required materials


Coordinator of the project
Óscar Blanch

Óscar Blanch

Óscar Blanch is researcher in the Gamma Rays group at the Institute of High Energy Physics (IFAE). His professional activity focuses, on the one hand, on the design of Cherenkov telescopes that are used to detect Gamma Rays, like the MAGIC telescopes, and on the other hand, in the analysis of the data obtained by them. He is the Deputy Spokesperson in the MAGIC collaboration and a member of the CTA collaborations. Óscar has extensive experience bringing high energy astrophysics to the general public and to make available to young people his knowledge in technology and physics in informative talks and workshops in which he has participated in the different countries in which he has worked.

Daniel Guberman

Daniel Guberman

Daniel Guberman studied Physics at the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina). He is approaching the end of his PhD, which he carried at the High Energy Physics (IFAE) Gamma-Ray Astronomy group since 2014. As part of the MAGIC collaboration, he focused his studies on the observations of a supernova remnant, aiming to yield some light in the process of trying to understand the origin of cosmic rays. He has been involved in the construction and testing of a new type of photodetector for gamma-ray astronomy, developing a strong experimental profile.

Joaquim Palacio

Joaquim Palacio studied Physics at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (Barcelona). He is approaching the end of his PhD, which he carried at the High Energy Physics (IFAE) Gamma-Ray Astronomy group since 2014. As part of the MAGIC collaboration, he focused his studies on indirect dark matter (DM) searches with Imaging Atmospheric Cherenkov Telescopes (IACTs), the search of an extra-terrestrial gamma-ray signal that could hint the existence of a new particle beyond the current standard model of particle physics. Observational and theoretical arguments have been proposed for the existence of this DM particle, and the MAGIC telescopes are among the current leading experiments that could discover it. He has also been involved in the final construction phase of what will become the largest IACT built on Earth, the Large Size Telescope, that will also search for the DM particle.

The center

The Institute of High Energy Physics (IFAE) has two main divisions, experimental and theory, which develop frontier research in Fundamental Physics, and a third division developing Applied Physics.