Galactic cosmic rays consist of primary and secondary particles. Primary cosmic rays are thought to be energized by first order Fermi acceleration processes at supernova shock fronts within our Galaxy. The cosmic rays that eventually reach the Earth from this source are mainly protons and atomic nuclei, but also include electrons. Secondary cosmic rays are created in collisions of primary particles with the diffuse interstellar gas. They are relatively rare but carry important information on the Galactic propagation of the primary particles. The secondary component includes a small fraction of antimatter particles, positrons and antiprotons. In addition, positrons and antiprotons may also come from unusual sources and possibly provide insight into new physics. For instance, the annihilation of heavy supersymmetric dark matter particles within the Galactic halo could lead to positrons or antiprotons with distinctive energy signatures. With the High-Energy Antimatter Telescope (HEAT) balloon-borne instrument, we have measured the abundances of positrons and electrons at energies between 1 and 50 GeV. The data suggest that indeed a small additional antimatter component may be present that cannot be explained by a purely secondary production mechanism. Here we describe the signature of the effect and discuss its possible origin.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics