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Univ. Of Utah Wins $1 Million To Study Cosmic Rays

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This artist's impression released 19 February, 2004 by the European Space Agency (ESA) illustrates the tremendous gravitational pull of a giant black hole (dark circle lower-R) on a passing star(R) (Photo credit: ESA/AFP/Getty Images)

This artist’s impression released 19 February, 2004 by the European Space Agency (ESA) illustrates the tremendous gravitational pull of a giant black hole (dark circle lower-R) on a passing star(R) (Photo credit: ESA/AFP/Getty Images)

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Scientists at the University of Utah have been awarded $1 million to study the high-energy cosmic rays hurtling toward Earth.

From Utah’s west desert, scientists will use analog TV transmitters and digital receivers to trace the origins of violent events that make cosmic rays 10 trillion times more energetic than particles emitted in a nuclear explosion.

The grant from a Los Angeles-based foundation will help researchers understand the forces that have shaped the universe.

The W.M. Keck Foundation, named after the founder of Superior Oil Co., supports pioneering efforts in science, engineering and medical research.

“We are at the frontier in our understanding of the origin of the universe’s most energetic particles,” said John Belz, a professor at University of Utah who is heading up the project.

Utah’s west desert offers ideal conditions in the search for elusive cosmic rays — a single particle might fall only once a century on a square mile of the Earth’s surface.

The desert has virtually no light pollution, atmospheric aerosols or radio interference to cloud images taken by the system called Bistatic Radar.

Researchers will use those images to track the range, direction and strength of high-energy particles.

Scientists will use the money to build a Keck Radar Observatory in Millard County alongside Utah’s Telescope Array, the largest conventional cosmic ray observatory in the Northern Hemisphere. They will compare the results of the two observatories.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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