Author’s version preprint
SourceAstroparticle Physics, 28, 1, (2007), pp. 41-57
Article / Letter to editor
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The fluorescence detection of ultra high energy (â‰³1e18 eV) cosmic rays requires a detailed knowledge of the fluorescence light emission from nitrogen molecules, which are excited by the cosmic ray shower particles along their path in the atmosphere. We have made a precise measurement of the fluorescence light spectrum excited by MeV electrons in dry air. We measured the relative intensities of 34 fluorescence bands in the wavelength range from 284 to 429 nm with a high resolution spectrograph. The pressure dependence of the fluorescence spectrum was also measured from a few hPa up to atmospheric pressure. Relative intensities and collisional quenching reference pressures for bands due to transitions from a common upper level were found in agreement with theoretical expectations. The presence of argon in air was found to have a negligible effect on the fluorescence yield. We estimated that the systematic uncertainty on the cosmic ray shower energy due to the pressure dependence of the fluorescence spectrum is reduced to a level of 1% by the AIRFLY results presented in this paper.
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