Science with CTA

      CTA is the next-generation instrument for ground-based gamma-ray astronomy and will address a broad range of astrophysics and fundamental physics questions. DESY researchers are deeply involved in the preparation of the CTA science program, which can be grouped into three main themes.

      Understanding the origin and role of relativistic cosmic particles

      Cosmic rays are very energetic elementary particles. They are a major ingredient of the interstellar medium and crucial for the formation and evolution of galaxies such as our Milky Way; our Universe would look different without these high-energy particles. Cosmic rays ionize dense cores of molecular clouds: the seed environments of star formation, and regulate astrochemistry in space. CTA will boost our understanding of cosmic rays through e.g. observations of galactic stellar clusters, Milky Way neighbour galaxies and starburst galaxies with groundbreaking precision. It will allow us to study the role of cosmic rays in galaxy dynamics and star formation.

      Probing extreme astrophysical environments

      DESY researchers are involved in the planning of galactic and extragalactic surveys. These surveys, the largest and most sensitive ever conducted in this energy range, will reveal hundreds of new very-high-energy gamma-ray emitters of many different classes. They allow us to build a global picture of where and how in the universe particles are accelerated to ultra-relativistic energies. One of the most exciting possibilities is the discovery of yet unknown types of cosmic particle accelerators and possibly match them to objects seen in other wavelengths or via other messengers such as neutrinos or gravitational waves.

      Exploring frontiers in physics

      CTA will be the most sensitive instrument to search for the elusive dark matter particles at an energy range above a few hundred gigaelectronvolts. This includes both the search for very heavy dark-matter candidates predicted by supersymmetry and the lightest candidates, so called axion-like particles. The latter are searched for by DESY scientists by studying the gamma-ray spectra of active galactic nuclei (AGNs). AGNs are galaxies that contain a supermassive black hole that accretes large amounts of matter and forms enormous jets of relativistic particle plasma. In AGNs, particles can be accelerated to much higher energies than what is possible in man-made accelerators such as the LHC.