ICJA science students are preparing to join an experiment to map out muon flux in the underground Fermilab MINOS experiment. Although the experiment is still pending final approval, the students headed to Fermilab on Feb. 12 to set up in hopes that they will begin gathering data soon. The experimenters believe there are variation in background muon radiation because of access tunnels leading from the experiment to the surface. This background noise is also picked up by the MINOS detectors, so there could be value to the experiment in having more knowledge of the muon background.
Three ICJA students, Jacob Miller, Benny Grey and Max Miller, are working on the project in collaboration with science students from school across the Chicagoland area. The experiment is part of QuarkNet and builds upon the in depth cosmic ray research students joined for the solar eclipse last year. In that research, ICJA students spent months collecting control data and then spent days at the site of the total eclipse to detect any changes of muons during the event. They presented their research at a national education conference for science teachers in California.
The students plan to investigate the effects of structural burden on muon flux, particularly as it relates to the flow of cosmic rays below ground in the MINOS tunnel. They will place a pair of cosmic ray muon detectors synchronized by GPS above and below ground. The horizontal distance between the access shaft and the underground cosmic ray muon detector will vary each week. The students will compare data from above and below ground levels to determine how muon flux depends on whether the muon path passes through the access shaft or through ground burden, depending on the location of the detectors in the tunnel.
This experiment will benefit FermiLab because it will help profile the existing installation and can be applied in the development or assessment of other tunnels with acces shafts. The students hypothesize that the difference between the muon flux detected below and above ground will vary depending on the proportion of the detector’s cone of acceptance that contains solid ground burden and the proportion of the cone of acceptance made up by the access shaft.