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Undergrad Research - Parabolic Cherenkov Detector

by BeBattey
Tags: cherenkov, parabolic, research, undergrad
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Apr9-14, 02:50 PM
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So I'm a senior at a lesser known university, I 'believe' I did very well on my PGRE though I don't have my scores yet, and I've maintained a 3.7 average in my physics courses. The only thing holding me back from admission into a fantastic grad program is my complete lack of research experience! So one of the professors has set up to get me some experience through my senior capstone course, and I want to make sure it goes smoothly and looks fantastic on an application, but we're short on resources and experience, as this is a new professor.

We want to propose an experiment that can detect whether or not lightning strikes are caused by cosmic rays. So what we want to do is build a parabolic dish that can simultaneously detect Cherenkov radiation and lightning strikes. First off we're building a parabolic dish to the dimensions that can allow us to use reasonably priced photodetectors and electronics to detect the Cherenkov radiation, but we're starting out with only detecting lightning for funding reasons.

Here is the issue: I'm delegated to tackle the detectors and electronics behind the dish, and I have no idea where to start. We can't afford photomultiplier tubes and avalanche photodiodes, so it seems we're going with cds cells, and the professor has proposed hooking them up to a raspberry pi, but I really have no experience with computer science/programming so I'm looking for some direction.

Also, if anyone has any ideas on how to construct a rather cheap but effective parabolic reflector with a radius of about 1.2 meters, I'm all ears!

Thanks in advance for any help!
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Apr10-14, 02:45 PM
PF Gold
P: 1,909

You’ve written that your project is to “build a parabolic dish that can simultaneously detect Cherenkov radiation and lightning strikes” and “but we're starting out with only detecting lightning for funding reasons”. Since you are “delegated to tackle the detectors and electronics behind the dish”, will you please specify which optical signals are you referring to.

If you are only seeking to detect only lightning it seems a parabolic reflector isn’t necessary since lightning is so bright.

If you are seeking to detect Cherenkov radiation with the reflector and detector, then please indicate that. There are many experiments already done in this area, so you could use techniques already proven. For example:

“Runaway Breakdown and the Mysteries of Lightning” - Physics Today May 2005, available at:

“Nova Science Now segment on Lightning” - Aired on PBS October 18, 2005

“Air Cherenkov Methods in Cosmic Rays: A Review and Some History”

Cheers, Bobbywhy

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