Cosmic ray particles with energies in excess of 10**(20) eV have been detected. The sources as well as the physical mechanism(s) responsible for endowing cosmic ray particles with such enormous energies are unknown. This report gives a review of the physics and astrophysics associated with the questions of origin and propagation of these Extremely High Energy (EHE) cosmic rays in the Universe. After a brief review of the observed cosmic rays in general and their possible sources and acceleration mechanisms, a detailed discussion is given of possible "top-down" (non-acceleration) scenarios of origin of EHE cosmic rays through decay of sufficiently massive particles originating from processes in the early Universe. The massive particles can come from collapse and/or annihilation of cosmic topological defects (such as monopoles, cosmic strings, etc.) associated with Grand Unified Theories or they could be some long-lived metastable supermassive relic particles that were created in the early Universe and are decaying in the current epoch. The highest energy end of the cosmic ray spectrum can thus be used as a probe of new fundamental physics beyond Standard Model. We discuss the role of existing and proposed cosmic ray, gamma-ray and neutrino experiments in this context. We also discuss how observations with next generation experiments of images and spectra of EHE cosmic ray sources can be used to obtain new information on Galactic and extragalactic magnetic fields and possibly their origin.
- Pub Date:
- March 2000
- High Energy Physics - Phenomenology
- 148 latex pages in tight format, 30 postscript-files and two gif-files for fig4.14 and fig4.15 included, uses epsf.sty. Considerably updated version of review to appear in Physics Reports. Links and color ps version of fig4.14 and fig4.15 at http://astro.uchicago.edu/home/web/sigl/physrep.html