Detecting the EBL Attenuation of Blazars with GLAST

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The Large Area Telescope (LAT) on board GLAST (Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope) due for launch in late 2007 will study the gamma-ray sky in the energy range 20 MeV to >300 GeV. GLAST-LAT's improved sensitivity with respect to previous missions will increase the number of known gamma-ray blazars from about 100 to thousands, with redshifts up to z~3-5. Since gamma rays with energy above 10 GeV interact via pair-production with photons from the Extragalactic Background Light (EBL), the systematic attenuation of GLAST-detected blazars as a function of redshift would constitute and effective and unique probe of the optical-UV EBL density and its evolution over cosmic history.

Analysis techniques introduced in this dissertation make use of the large number of blazars detected by GLAST to study the collective behavior of their spectra as a function of redshift. These techniques are shown to offer powerful ways to help separate the common level of attenuation due to the EBL from the intrinsic peculiarities of individual blazars.

The capability of GLAST to perform these measurements depends in great measure on the acceptance of the instrument to high energy photons (E > 10 GeV), which in previous space-experiments has been drastically reduced due to backsplash self-veto. This dissertation includes a study of the backsplash effect as measured with flight-like detectors during a beam test of the LAT calibration unit. This analysis was used to verify the capabilities of the GLAST simulations tools to reproduce backsplash effects.