Experimental conclusions from air shower observations on cosmic-ray photons above 10^19 eV are based on the comparison to detailed shower simulations. For the calculations, the photonuclear cross-section needs to be extrapolated over several orders of magnitude in energy. The uncertainty from the cross-section extrapolation translates into an uncertainty of the predicted shower features for primary photons and, thus, into uncertainties for a possible data interpretation. After briefly reviewing the current status of ultra-high energy photon studies, the impact of the uncertainty of the photonuclear cross-section for shower calculations is investigated. Estimates for the uncertainties in the main shower observables are provided. Photon discrimination is shown to be possible even for rapidly rising cross-sections. When photon-initiated showers are identified, it is argued that the sensitivity of photon shower observables to the photonuclear cross-section can in turn be exploited to constrain the cross-section at energies not accessible at colliders.
Czechoslovak Journal of Physics
- Pub Date:
- September 2006
- High Energy Physics - Phenomenology
- Based on a talk presented at the international conference "From Colliders to Cosmic Rays", Prague, September 7-13 (2005)