Measurement of the cosmic-ray proton spectrum from 54 GeV to 9.5 TeV with the Fermi Large Area Telescope
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Cosmic rays are a near-isotropic continuous flux of energetic particles of extraterrestrial origin. First discovered in 1912, cosmic rays span over 10 decades of energy and originate from Galactic and extragalactic sources. The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope observations have recently confirmed supernova remnants (SNR) as a source class for Galactic cosmic-ray protons. Additionally, recent measurements made by AMS-02 of the cosmic-ray proton spectrum to 1.8 TeV in kinetic energy have shown an unexpected spectral break at 415 ± 117 GeV with a primary spectral index of −2.794±0.006 and a secondary spectral index of −2.702±0.047. The Fermi Large Area Telescope (LAT), one of two instruments on Fermi, has an ideal energy range for confirming a spectral break and extending a space-based cosmic-ray proton spectrum measurement to overlap with higher energy balloon-borne measurements.
In this thesis, I present the measurement of the cosmic-ray proton spectrum from 54 GeV to 9.5 TeV with the Fermi-LAT. Using the LAT’s anti-coincidence detector and tracker as two independent measures of charge, I estimated a residual contamination in our proton data set of less than 5% primarily from cosmic-ray electrons and positrons. The LAT calorimeter provides an energy estimation of the electromagnetic fraction of an induced cosmic-ray proton shower. I use the charge and energy measurements to build instrument response functions, such as acceptance and response for the LAT, and measure cosmic-ray proton flux. I estimate the systematic uncertainties associated with the acceptance and the energy measurement. Using a broken power-law spectrum, I find a primary spectral index of −2.80 ± 0.03, a secondary spectral index of −2.60 ± 0.04, and an energy break of 467 ± 144 GeV. I discuss possible astrophysical and cosmic-ray physics interpretations for the observed spectral break.