Radio Measurements of the Depth of Air-Shower Maximum at the Pierre Auger Observatory

Pierre Auger Collaboration

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The Auger Engineering Radio Array (AERA), part of the Pierre Auger Observatory, is currently the largest array of radio antenna stations deployed for the detection of cosmic rays, spanning an area of $17$ km$^2$ with 153 radio stations. It detects the radio emission of extensive air showers produced by cosmic rays in the $30-80$ MHz band. Here, we report the AERA measurements of the depth of the shower maximum ($X_\text{max}$), a probe for mass composition, at cosmic-ray energies between $10^{17.5}$ to $10^{18.8}$ eV, which show agreement with earlier measurements with the fluorescence technique at the Pierre Auger Observatory. We show advancements in the method for radio $X_\text{max}$ reconstruction by comparison to dedicated sets of CORSIKA/CoREAS air-shower simulations, including steps of reconstruction-bias identification and correction, which is of particular importance for irregular or sparse radio arrays. Using the largest set of radio air-shower measurements to date, we show the radio $X_\text{max}$ resolution as a function of energy, reaching a resolution better than $15$ g cm$^{-2}$ at the highest energies, demonstrating that radio $X_\text{max}$ measurements are competitive with the established high-precision fluorescence technique. In addition, we developed a procedure for performing an extensive data-driven study of systematic uncertainties, including the effects of acceptance bias, reconstruction bias, and the investigation of possible residual biases. These results have been cross-checked with air showers measured independently with both the radio and fluorescence techniques, a setup unique to the Pierre Auger Observatory.
Original languageEnglish
Article number022002
Number of pages24
JournalPhysical Review D
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

Submitted to Phys. Rev. D


  • astro-ph.HE
  • astro-ph.IM


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