Search for ultra-high energy photons through preshower effect with gamma-ray telescopes: Study of CTA-North efficiency

Kévin Almeida Cheminant, Dariusz Góra, David E. Alvarez Castillo, Aleksander Ćwikła, Niraj Dhital, Alan R. Duffy, Piotr Homola, Konrad Kopański, Marcin Kasztelan, Peter Kovacs, Marta Marek, Alona Mozgova, Vahab Nazari, Michał Niedźwiecki, Dominik Ostrogórski, Karel Smolek, Jarosław Stasielak, Oleksandr Sushchov, Jilberto Zamora-Saa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


As ultra-high energy photons (EeV and beyond) propagate from their sources of production to Earth, radiation-matter interactions can occur, leading to an effective screening of the incident flux. In this energy domain, photons can undergo e+/e pair production when interacting with the surrounding geomagnetic field, which in turn can produce a cascade of electromagnetic particles called preshower. Such cascade can initiate air showers in the Earth's atmosphere that gamma-ray telescopes, such as the next-generation gamma-ray observatory Cherenkov Telescope Array, can detect through Cherenkov emission. In this paper, we study the feasibility of detecting such phenomenon using Monte-Carlo simulations of nearly horizontal air showers for the example of the La Palma site of the Cherenkov Telescope Array. We investigate the efficiency of multivariate analysis in correctly identifying preshower events initiated by 40 EeV photons and cosmic ray dominated background simulated in the energy range 10 TeV – 10 EeV. The effective areas for such kind of events are also investigated and event rate predictions related to different ultra-high energy photons production models are presented. While the expected number of preshowers from diffuse emission of UHE photons for 30 hours of observation is estimated around 3.3×10−5 based on the upper limits put by the Pierre Auger Observatory, this value is at the level of 2.7×10−4 (5.7×10−5) when considering the upper limits of the Pierre Auger Observatory (Telescope Array) on UHE photon point sources. However, UHE photon emission may undergo possible ”boosting” due to gamma-ray burst, increasing the expected number of preshower events up to 0.17 and yielding a minimum required flux of ~ 0.2 km−2yr−1 to obtain one preshower event, which is about a factor 10 higher than upper limits put by the Pierre Auger Observatory and Telescope Array (0.034 and 0.019 km−2yr−1, respectively).

Original languageEnglish
Article number102489
JournalAstroparticle Physics
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Classification
  • CTA
  • Preshower effect
  • γ-ray astronomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics


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