The propagation of ultra high energy cosmic rays
This thesis presents theoretical work on the propagation of ultra high energy cosmic rays, from their source to Earth. The different energy loss processes, resulting from cosmic ray interactions with the radiation fields, are addressed. The subsequent uncertainties in the energy loss rates and the effect produced on the arriving cosmic ray spectrum are highlighted. The question of the composition of ultra high energy cosmic rays remains unresolved, with the range of possibilities leading to quite different results in both the secondary fluxes of particles produced through cosmic ray energy loss interactions en route, and the arriving cosmic ray spectra at Earth. A large range of nuclear species are considered in this work, spanning the range of physically motivated nuclear types ejected from the cosmic ray source. The treatment of cosmic ray propagation is usually handled through Monte Carlo simulations due to the stochastic nature of some of the particle physics processes relevant. In this work, an analytic treatment for cosmic ray nuclei propagation is developed. The development of this method providing a deeper understanding of the main components relevant to cosmic ray nuclei propagation, and through its application, a clear insight into the contributing particle physics aspects of the Monte Carlo simulation. A flux of secondary neutrinos, produced as a consequence of cosmic ray energy loss through pion production during propagation, is also expected to be observed at Earth. This spectrum, however, is dependent on several loosely constrained factors such as the radiation field in the infrared region and cosmic ray composition. The range of possible neutrino fluxes obtainable with such uncertainties are discussed in this work. High energy cosmic ray interactions with the radiation fields present within the source may also occur, leading to cosmic ray energy loss before the cosmic ray has even managed to escape. The secondary spectra produced are investigated through the consideration of three candidate sources. A relationship between the degree of photo-disintegration in the source region and the neutrino flux produced through p γ interactions is found.