As we know, the world is full of mysteries and mysteries, andsolving them is not so simple, moreover, it is not always possible. Presenting secrets, the pyramids immediately come to mind - these majestic structures still leave many questions unanswered. Including what is inside them. Since this is a cultural heritage, it is not possible to simply unearth everything and study, this requires caution. Thus, in 1968, American physicist Luis Walter Alvarez traveled to the sun-scorched desert of Egypt to discover hidden chambers inside one of the greatest structures ever built, the Pyramid of Khafra. But Alvarez did not excavate with shovels or pickaxes. Instead, the fundamental particle, the muon, became his instrument.
What are muons and how can they help?
Formed as a result of interactioncosmic rays with the Earth's atmosphere, muons - similar to electrons, but about 200 times heavier - pour from the sky at almost the speed of light, possessing energy sufficient to penetrate even the densest and largest structures.
Muons exist in nature in two forms:mu-plus (μ+) and mu-minus (μ-), which are each other's antiparticles. When muons are produced by high-energy nuclear reactions or by the impact of cosmic rays on the Earth's atmosphere, they have a very short average lifetime of only about 2.2 microseconds. This is due to their tendency to decay into other elementary particles. However, muons can also be created artificially in particle accelerators.
Alvarez came to the conclusion that muons penetratingthrough the pyramid are affected by the objects they encounter along the way. Muons passing through limestone walls can be stopped, deflected, or collided with a detector, saving only a fraction of their energy. However, muons penetrating empty spaces, such as the Pharaoh's burial chamber, can pass through them. In this regard, Alvarez installed a special muon detector at the base of the pyramid and began to collect data. Unfortunately, he didn't find anything out of the ordinary.
It may be interesting - scientists have restored the appearance of an ancient Egyptian mummy.
However, these muons have the ability to penetratethrough earth, water and many materials that block other types of particles such as electrons or protons. This makes muons valuable for studying the internal composition of rocks, as well as finding hidden cavities in pyramids or other archaeological structures.
Improving muon technology
At a scientific conference Ralf Ehrlich, researcherfrom the University of Virginia, presented a new project involving the use of a "muon telescope" for a detailed study of the Great Pyramid of Giza. This pyramid, 138 meters high, was built by Pharaoh Cheops and is the highest on Earth. The plan is to use muons detected at different points and directions to create a 3D model of the pyramid. This process is similar to a medical CT scan, where the internal structures of the body can be seen through the image.
The idea of developing a "muon telescope" belongs toAlan Bross, who is the project leader. He received inspiration from his visit to the Great Pyramid and was impressed by its grandiose size. After returning home, this thought did not leave him, and he turned to Mark Lehner, an expert on the Giza pyramids from the Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures, for help. Together they slowly developed the idea of using muons to explore the pyramids. After receiving the necessary funding and forming a team of scientists, they decided to get to work.
Scientists have already joined the researchprogram known as Mu2e, which studies the process of turning muons into electrons, and they plan to use a similar design to build a new telescope.
See also: Hundreds of mummies and an unknown queen: an amazing find in the Egyptian Saqqara.
When using cosmic ray muons withkinetic energy from 10 to 200 GeV to scan the pyramid, scientists expect to obtain optimal data for analysis. This is because muons can be scattered when interacting with large atomic nuclei, such as calcium in the limestone walls of the pyramid. Higher energy muons are less likely to scatter, while lower energy muons often pass through the pyramid structure without interacting.
Telescope for studying the pyramids
The telescope will be constructed usingeight muon detectors to be installed inside two temperature-controlled containers. These detectors will be arranged in a grid pattern and will be directed towards the Great Pyramid. The team plans to place both grids near the pyramid for about a month and a half, after which they will move the installation to a new location and repeat the process. A full scan is expected to take approximately two years.
The data collected from each location will becombined to create a complete 3D model of the interior structure of the Great Pyramid. Perhaps as a result of this process, new structures within the pyramid will be discovered.
Using preliminary data obtained fromUsing muon tomography, the research team was convinced that the device was working. Some researchers suggest that the second royal chamber may be located at the top of the pyramid.
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Previously, muons have already been used for other purposes,for example, to detect damaged radioactive zones in reactors, and successfully completed their task. Muon tomography technology is actively supported by the scientific community. However, it is noted that the deployment of detectors is a difficult task, especially in conditions of strong sun and wind.
However, researchers continue to advancethe Great Pyramid Research project despite financial difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. With the successful proof-of-concept for the muon telescope, the team is gearing up for the next phases of the project: making the device and deploying it.