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Gamma-ray Astronomy

In Dortmund, we focus on ground-based gamma astronomy with imaging atmospheric Cherenkov telescopes. These telescopes are sensitive to the very faint light pulses of Cherenkov light, which are only a few nanoseconds long and are produced by extended air showers in the atmosphere.

With Cherenkov light, these telescopes are able to measure gamma rays in the energy range from only 30 GeV to several hundred TeV.

Photo of the MAGIC telescopes on La Palma © Robert Wagner ​/​ MAGIC
The two MAGIC (Major Atmospheric Gamma-Ray Imaging Cherenkov) telescopes, on Roque de los Muchachos on the Canary Island of La Palma.

The use of high-energy gamma rays offers a unique view into the universe. Only the most extreme objects, such as supernova remnants in our own Milky Way and supermassive black holes at the centers of other galaxies, are sources of gamma rays at TeV energies.

Focus in Dortmund

We are focusing on improving the sensitivity of these instruments by developing new machine-learning oriented analysis methods, improving the extensive simulations required for these instruments, and solving the inverse problems encountered in estimating the spectral energy distribution of the cosmic gamma-ray source.

To put all this together, we are also part of the open gamma-ray astronomy community, developing common data formats and analysis tools.

 

Experiments

Our group is a member of three international collaborations in Cherenkov astronomy. MAGIC is an array of two 17m telescopes at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on La Palma, Spain and one of the most sensitive observing Cherenkov telescopes currently available. FACT is a smaller 4m-diameter telescope right next to MAGIC that demonstrates the feasibility of modern silicon photomultipliers in Cherenkov astronomy and for continuous monitoring of brightly active Galactic nuclei. CTA will be the next generation and most sensitive telescope array ever built. Currently in the design and construction phase, work here is focused primarily on simulation and analysis software.

Location & approach

The campus of the Technical University of Dortmund is located near the freeway junction Dortmund West, where the Sauerland line A45 crosses the Ruhr expressway B1/A40. The Dortmund-Eichlinghofen exit on the A45 leads to the South Campus, the Dortmund-Dorstfeld exit on the A40 leads to the North Campus. The university is signposted at both exits.

The "Dortmund Universität" S-Bahn station is located directly on the North Campus. From there, the S-Bahn line S1 runs every 20 or 30 minutes to Dortmund main station and in the opposite direction to Düsseldorf main station via Bochum, Essen and Duisburg. In addition, the university can be reached by bus lines 445, 447 and 462. Timetable information can be found on the homepage of the Rhine-Ruhr transport association, and DSW21 also offer an interactive route network map.

One of the landmarks of the TU Dortmund is the H-Bahn. Line 1 runs every 10 minutes between Dortmund Eichlinghofen and the Technology Center via Campus South and Dortmund University S, while Line 2 commutes every 5 minutes between Campus North and Campus South. It covers this distance in two minutes.