The High-Altitude Water Cherenkov Gamma-Ray Observatory

Statement from the HAWC Leadership (June 8, 2020)

The murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are but recent reminders of the hatred, violence, and racism that are pervasive in the US and around the world. We, the leadership of the HAWC Gamma Ray Observatory, wish to express our solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and with the multitude of demonstrators around the world in their protest against systemic racism and police brutality directed at people of color.

Science and society are strengthened when we bring together people with the broadest spectrum of backgrounds and experiences. Despite a stated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in our research activities, we recognize that we must do significantly more to bring change to our collaboration, our institutions, our countries and society as a whole. While we must work to remove barriers that prevent black people as well as other underrepresented groups from gaining access to academic and scientific pursuits and institutions, we recognize that this begins with fully and actively supporting basic human rights for all people.

We, the leadership of the HAWC collaboration, recognize that we are privileged in our positions as scientists and have a responsibility to speak out against discrimination and oppression in all its forms and to demand justice.

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About HAWC

HAWC is a facility designed to observe gamma rays and cosmic rays between 100 GeV and 100 TeV. TeV gamma rays are the highest energy photons ever observed — 1 TeV is 1 trillion electron volts (eV), about 1 trillion times more energetic than visible light! These photons are born in the most extreme environments in the known universe: supernova explosions, active galactic nuclei, and gamma-ray bursts.

HAWC 300
The HAWC Observatory (J. Goodman, Nov. 2016).

Cosmic rays are charged particles which achieve energies far beyond what we can create in man-made particle accelerators. (The highest energy cosmic ray ever observed was 300 million TeV.) The origin of such particles has been a mystery for over 100 years. Gamma rays are though to be correlated with the acceleration sites of charged cosmic rays, so we observe them to help answer this and other cosmic questions.

HAWC is located on the flanks of the Sierra Negra volcano near Puebla, Mexico at an altitude of 4100 meters (13,500 feet). The detector has an instantaneous field of view covering 15% of the sky, and during each 24 hour period HAWC observes two-thirds of the sky. Using the HAWC Observatory, we are performing a high-sensitivity synoptic survey of the gamma rays from the Northern Hemisphere.