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An investigation of techniques for the measurement and interpretation of cosmic ray isotopic abundances


Wiedenbeck, Mark Edward (1978) An investigation of techniques for the measurement and interpretation of cosmic ray isotopic abundances. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/TXRP-JV20.


An instrument, the Caltech High Energy Isotope Spectrometer Telescope (HEIST), has been developed to measure isotopic abundances of cosmic ray nuclei in the charge range 3 ≤ Z ≤ 28 and the energy range between 30 and 800 MeV/nuc by employing an energy loss -- residual energy technique. Measurements of particle trajectories and energy losses are made using a multiwire proportional counter hodoscope and a stack of CsI(TI) crystal scintillators, respectively. A detailed analysis has been made of the mass resolution capabilities of this instrument.

Landau fluctuations set a fundamental limit on the attainable mass resolution, which for this instrument ranges between ~.07 AMU for z~3 and ~.2 AMU for z~2b. Contributions to the mass resolution due to uncertainties in measuring the path-length and energy losses of the detected particles are shown to degrade the overall mass resolution to between ~.1 AMU (z~3) and ~.3 AMU (z~2b).

A formalism, based on the leaky box model of cosmic ray propagation, is developed for obtaining isotopic abundance ratios at the cosmic ray sources from abundances measured in local interstellar space for elements having three or more stable isotopes, one of which is believed to be absent at the cosmic ray sources. This purely secondary isotope is used as a tracer of secondary production during propagation. This technique is illustrated for the isotopes of the elements O, Ne, S, Ar and Ca.

The uncertainties in the derived source ratios due to errors in fragmentation and total inelastic cross sections, in observed spectral shapes, and in measured abundances are evaluated. It is shown that the dominant sources of uncertainty are uncorrelated errors in the fragmentation cross sections and statistical uncertainties in measuring local interstellar abundances.

These results are applied to estimate the extent to which uncertainties must be reduced in order to distinguish between cosmic ray production in a solar-like environment and in various environments with greater neutron enrichments.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Physics
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
Major Option:Physics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Stone, Edward C.
Group:Space Radiation Laboratory
Thesis Committee:
  • Unknown, Unknown
Defense Date:9 December 1977
Non-Caltech Author Email:mark.e.wiedenbeck (AT)
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:10072014-112144047
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8674
Deposited On:07 Oct 2014 20:11
Last Modified:09 Nov 2022 19:20

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