Muon Production in Relativistic Cosmic-Ray Interactions

Article, Preprint English OPEN
Klein, Spencer R. (2009)
  • Publisher: eScholarship, University of California
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1016/j.nuclphysa.2009.10.128
  • Subject: High Energy Physics - Phenomenology | Physics | Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena
    arxiv: Physics::Instrumentation and Detectors | Physics::Accelerator Physics | Nuclear Experiment | Astrophysics::High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena | High Energy Physics::Experiment

Cosmic-rays with energies up to $3\times10^{20}$ eV have been observed. The nuclear composition of these cosmic rays is unknown but if the incident nuclei are protons then the corresponding center of mass energy is $\sqrt{s_{nn}} = 700$ TeV. High energy muons can be used to probe the composition of these incident nuclei. The energy spectra of high-energy ($>$ 1 TeV) cosmic ray induced muons have been measured with deep underground or under-ice detectors. These muons come from pion and kaon decays and from charm production in the atmosphere. Terrestrial experiments are most sensitive to far-forward muons so the production rates are sensitive to high-$x$ partons in the incident nucleus and low-$x$ partons in the nitrogen/oxygen targets. Muon measurements can complement the central-particle data collected at colliders. This paper will review muon production data and discuss some non-perturbative (soft) models that have been used to interpret the data. I will show measurements of TeV muon transverse momentum ($p_T$) spectra in cosmic-ray air showers from MACRO, and describe how the IceCube neutrino observatory and the proposed Km3Net detector will extend these measurements to a higher $p_T$ region where perturbative QCD should apply. With a 1 km$^2$ surface area, the full IceCube detector should observe hundreds of muons/year with $p_T$ in the pQCD regime.
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