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Investigation of high energy and plasma astrophysics phenomena, installation of the ASTRI-Mini Array & construction of the Cherenkov Telescope Array Small Size Telescopes (CTA-SSTs)

Abstract

The visible matter in the Universe is predominantly in a plasma state, i.e., it is composed of magnetized and ionized or partially ionized gas. The High Energy and Plasma Astrophysics group (GAPAE) at IAG-USP, having as partners researchers of CRAAM, EACH-USP and UFABC, has been exploring, for more than two decades, fundamental plasmas and high energy processes in astrophysical sources, using theoretical and numerical magneto-hydrodynamics (MHD) fluid description, as well as observational tools. These fundamental processes encompass particle acceleration, turbulence, magnetic reconnection, MHD shocks, instabilities, origin and amplification of cosmic magnetic fields, and non-thermal emission, applied to vast astrophysical framework from compact objects to clusters of galaxies. Such studies demand high performance computation (HPC) and continuous development of new numerical techniques and sophisticated multidimensional codes, which in turn have required continuous upgrade of our computational resources. These studies also drove our group into the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) Project, an international collaboration (involving 31 countries) aiming at the construction of the world's largest ground-based gamma-ray observatory, covering the full sky with a northern array located at La Palma (Spain) and a southern array at Paranal (Chile). CTA will provide major advances to astrophysics, cosmology, and astroparticle physics, on the investigation of cosmic ray accelerators, cosmic magnetic fields, the physics of compact objects, and the origin of dark matter, all topics closely connected with our research. Our main contribution to this Project has been the development and construction of the ASTRI (Astrofisica con Specchi a Tecnologia Replicante Italiana) MINI-ARRAY, in partnership with the Italian team of CTA. This is a CTA PRECURSOR composed of nine telescopes, that will be soon installed in the Canarian Islands, with operation expected to start around 2024. This thematic proposal aims to request funding to continue to support the CTA, the ASTRI Mini-Array, and our research activities. It is nestled in a broader international effort to build the CTA, now in its construction phase. CTA will have telescopes of three distinct sizes, the Large, Medium, and Small size telescopes (LST, MST, and SST, respectively), and the ASTRI telescope is the SST prototype that has been chosen (out of two other prototypes) to be the SST structure of the CTA, putting the ASTRI team as protagonist of the next steps of the Project development. The production of 37 SSTs telescopes is foreseen in the first phase of CTA construction, and we here request funding to manufacture in Brazil the optical segment support structure of the primary mirror (M1) of 40 SSTs (including 3 spare samples), with the technology that we helped to develop. Furthermore, in view of our extensive numerical studies, we also request funding for an upgrade of our computational facilities. This project extends the work already supported by FAPESP in our previous thematic projects (97/13084-3, 2006/50654-3, and particularly 13/10559-5). Our participation in the next steps of the CTA construction, will ensure to the Brazilian members a solid involvement in the SST Consortium. CTA is recognized among the three more important Astronomy Projects in Brazil and in the SPANET (São Paulo Astronomy Network). Furthermore, the upgrade of our computational facilities will make possible the continuation of the extensive numerical studies that we are performing with our graduate and under-graduate students, postdocs and several collaborators worldwide. The overall activities include the production of the optical support structures for CTA SSTs, participation in AIV activities, Science development, and data analyses both for the ASTRI and CTA, as well as preparation of students, and postdocs on theoretical and observational skills. (AU)

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