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Green Light for LHAASO: China Approves Cosmic Ray Physics Exploration Project
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The National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planning body, approved the Large High Altitude Air Shower Observatory (LHAASO) project on December 31, 2015. The LHAASO project is designed to explore physics goals in gamma ray astronomy and cosmic ray physics.

The main scientific objectives of LHAASO are to search for the origin of high energy cosmic rays, to study the evolution of the universe and high energy celestial bodies, and to push forward the frontier of new physics. Statistical samples of various gamma ray sources will be accumulated through an all-sky gamma ray source survey and precise measurement of gamma ray energy spectra. Internationally, LHAASO will be a key frontier project for cosmic ray research.

Work on the project started in 2008, when scientists at the Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP) initiated a pre-study and conducted extensive field surveys in China's high-altitude areas. In 2014, the highlands at Daocheng County, Sichuan, where there is an average altitude of 4400 meters, was selected as the observation station site. In August 2014, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Sichuan provincial government signed a framework agreement to build the LHAASO project, marking the establishing of a scientific base in Sichuan for the international forefront of cosmic ray research.

Over one hundred scientists from more than 20 Chinese research institutions and researchers from Italy, France, Russia and other countries have joined LHAASO. The total cost of the project is projected at 1.2 billion yuan, with an estimated construction time of four years.

Layout of LHAASO Project (Image by IHEP)