Imaging Atmospheric Cherenkov Technique (IACT)
tašnik-e vinagari-ye Čerenkov-e javvi
Fr.: téchnique d'imagerie Čerenkov atmosphérique
The method used to detect very brief flashes of → Cherenkov radiation generated by the → cascade shower of → relativistic charged particles produced when a very high-energy → gamma ray (in the range 50 GeV to 50 TeV) strikes the atmosphere at a typical altitude of 10 km. Owing to this technique, it possible to discriminate cosmic gamma rays from the cosmic ray background and to determine their energy and source direction. More specifically, the incoming gamma-ray photon undergoes → pair production in the vicinity of the nucleus of an atmospheric molecule. The electron-positron pairs produced are of extremely high energy and immediately radiate in a → bremsstrahlung process. This radiation is itself extremely energetic, with many of the photons undergoing further pair production. A cascade of charged particles ensues which, due to its extreme energy, produces a flash of Cherenkov radiation lasting between 5 and 20 nano-seconds. The total area on the ground illuminated by this flash corresponds to many hundreds of square meters, which is why the effective area of IACT telescopes should be large.