Abstract We use the surface detector of the Pierre Auger Observatory to search for air showers initiated by photons with an energy above 10 19 eV. Photons in the zenith angle range from 30 ∘ to 60 ∘ can be identified in the overwhelming background of showers initiated by charged cosmic rays through the broader time structure of the signals induced in the water-Cherenkov detectors of the array and the steeper lateral distribution of shower particles reaching ground. Applying the search method to data collected between January 2004 and June 2020, upper limits at 95% CL are set to an E -2 diffuse flux of ultra-high energy photons above 10 19 eV, 2 × 10 19 eV and 4 × 10 19 eV amounting to 2.11 × 10 -3 , 3.12 × 10 -4 and 1.72 × 10 -4 km -2 sr -1 yr -1 , respectively. While the sensitivity of the present search around 2 × 10 19 eV approaches expectations of cosmogenic photon fluxes in the case of a pure-proton composition, it is one order of magnitude above those from more realistic mixed-composition models. The inferred limits have also implications for the search of super-heavy dark matter thatmore »
Search for point sources of ultra-high-energy photons with the Telescope Array surface detector
Ultra-high-energy (UHE) photons are an important tool for studying the high-energy Universe. A plausible source of photons with exa-eV (EeV) energy is provided by UHE cosmic rays (UHECRs) undergoing the Greisen–Zatsepin–Kuzmin process (Greisen 1966; Zatsepin & Kuzmin 1966) or pair production process (Blumenthal 1970) on a cosmic background radiation. In this context, the EeV photons can be a probe of both UHECR mass composition and the distribution of their sources (Gelmini, Kalashev & Semikoz 2008; Hooper, Taylor & Sarkar 2011). At the same time, the possible flux of photons produced by UHE protons in the vicinity of their sources by pion photoproduction or inelastic nuclear collisions would be noticeable only for relatively near sources, as the attenuation length of UHE photons is smaller than that of UHE protons; see, for example, Bhattacharjee & Sigl (2000) for a review. There also exists a class of so-called top-down models of UHECR generation that efficiently produce the UHE photons, for instance by the decay of heavy dark-matter particles (Berezinsky, Kachelriess & Vilenkin 1997; Kuzmin & Rubakov 1998) or by the radiation from cosmic strings (Berezinsky, Blasi & Vilenkin 1998). The search for the UHE photons was shown to be the most sensitive method more »
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The Pierre Auger Observatory, which is the largest air-shower experiment in the world, offers unprecedented exposure to neutral particles at the highest energies. Since the start of data collection more than 18 years ago, various searches for ultra-high-energy (UHE, E≳1017eV) photons have been performed, either for a diffuse flux of UHE photons, for point sources of UHE photons or for UHE photons associated with transient events such as gravitational wave events. In the present paper, we summarize these searches and review the current results obtained using the wealth of data collected by the Pierre Auger Observatory.
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