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Title: 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 » of indirect detection of heavy dark matter (Kalashev & Kuznetsov 2016, 2017; Kuznetsov 2017; Kachelriess, Kalashev & Kuznetsov 2018; Alcantara, Anchordoqui & Soriano 2019). Another fundamental physics scenario that could be tested with UHE photons (Fairbairn, Rashba & Troitsky 2011) is the photon mixing with axion-like particles (Raffelt & Stodolsky 1988), which could be responsible for the correlation of UHECR events with BL Lac type objects observed by the High Resolution Fly’s Eye (HiRes) experiment (Gorbunov et al. 2004; Abbasi et al. 2006). In most of these scenarios, a clustering of photon arrival directions, rather than diffuse distribution, is expected, so point-source searches can be a suitable test for photon - axion-like particle mixing models. Finally, UHE photons could also be used as a probe for the models of Lorentz-invariance violation (Coleman & Glashow 1999; Galaverni & Sigl 2008; Maccione, Liberati & Sigl 2010; Rubtsov, Satunin & Sibiryakov 2012, 2014). The Telescope Array (TA; Tokuno et al. 2012; Abu-Zayyad et al. 2013c) is the largest cosmic ray experiment in the Northern Hemisphere. It is located at 39.3° N, 112.9° W in Utah, USA. The observatory includes a surface detector array (SD) and 38 fluorescence telescopes grouped into three stations. The SD consists of 507 stations that contain plastic scintillators, each with an area of 3 m2 (SD stations). The stations are placed in the square grid with 1.2 km spacing and cover an area of ∼700 km2. The TA SD is capable of detecting extensive air showers (EASs) in the atmosphere caused by cosmic particles of EeV and higher energies. The TA SD has been operating since 2008 May. A hadron-induced EAS significantly differs from an EAS induced by a photon because the depth of the shower maximum Xmax for a photon shower is larger, and a photon shower contains fewer muons and has a more curved front (see Risse & Homola 2007 for a review). The TA SD stations are sensitive to both muon and electromagnetic components of the shower and therefore can be triggered by both hadron-induced and photon-induced EAS events. In the present study, we use 9 yr of TA SD data for a blind search for point sources of UHE photons. We utilize the statistics of the SD data, which benefit from a high duty cycle. The full Monte Carlo (MC) simulation of proton-induced and photon-induced EAS events allows us to perform the photon search up to the highest accessible energies, E ≳ 1020 eV. As the main tool for the present photon search, we use a multivariate analysis based on a number of SD parameters that make it possible to distinguish between photon and hadron primaries. While searches for diffuse UHE photons were performed by several EAS experiments, including Haverah Park (Ave et al. 2000), AGASA (Shinozaki et al. 2002; Risse et al. 2005), Yakutsk (Rubtsov et al. 2006; Glushkov et al. 2007, 2010), Pierre Auger (Abraham et al. 2007, 2008a; Bleve 2016; Aab et al. 2017c) and TA (Abu-Zayyad et al. 2013b; Abbasi et al. 2019a), the search for point sources of UHE photons has been done only by the Pierre Auger Observatory (Aab et al. 2014, 2017a). The latter searches were based on hybrid data and were limited to the 1017.3 < E < 1018.5 eV energy range. In the present paper, we use the TA SD data alone. We perform the searches in five energy ranges: E > 1018, E > 1018.5, E > 1019, E > 1019.5 and E > 1020 eV. We find no significant evidence of photon point sources in all energy ranges and we set the point-source flux upper limits from each direction in the TA field of view (FOV). The search for unspecified neutral particles was also previously performed by the TA (Abbasi et al. 2015). The limit on the point-source flux of neutral particles obtained in that work is close to the present photon point-source flux limits. « less
Award ID(s):
1806797 2112904 2012934 1712517
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
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Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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