News and Press from HAWC
HAWC takes a good look at a cosmic accelerator
June 18, 2020
HAWC has detected gamma-ray emission from the supernova remnant G106.3+2.7. Combining the HAWC results with older measurements by the VERITAS collaboration, we find that the gamma-ray emission continues up to more than 100 TeV. The observed gamma-ray emission can be produced either by relativistic protons with energies up to at least 800 TeV, or by relativistic electrons with energies up to at least 270 TeV. These results indicate that G106.3+2.7 may be a PeVatron, a cosmic ray accelerator capable of accelerating protons to PeV energies. More studies are needed to fully constrain the emission mechanism and the source of the high-energy particles.
Full letter: HAWC J2227+610 and Its Association with G106.3+2.7, a New Potential Galactic PeVatron, A. Albert et al. 2020, ApJL 896 L29.
Popular science article featuring the results on AASNova.
HAWC tests Einstein’s theory of relativity with extreme astronomy
January 13, 2020
Sometimes in science, things that don’t occur can be as interesting as those that do. Much of modern physics is founded on Einstein’s special relativity,
but physicists have also considered possible models in which it is subtly violated at very high energies. To constrain such theoretical ideas, it is important
to test the observational consequences of such exotic theories.
If special relativity were violated at high energy, strange things could happen; gamma rays might travel faster or slower than lower energy light.
Or high energy gamma rays could turn into lower energy particles and thus never reach Earth.
In a recent study, published in in the March 30th issue of Physical Review Letters, MSU Department of Physics and Astronomy Professor Jim Linnemann
and his now former graduate student Sam Marinelli tested this theory by working on machine learning algorithms to take the patterns observed by the
HAWC detectors and translate them into surprisingly accurate estimates–within 30 percent– of the energy of the gamma rays initiating the particle showers.
Overall, the data indicate that Lorentz invariance is preserved up to at least 285 TeV. Such gamma rays carry about 100
trillion times the energy of visible light coming from the Sun. This is the highest-energy test of Einstein's theory of relativity to date.
Link to full press release
HAWC observations of highest-energy gamma-ray sources reveal birthplaces of high-energy particles
January 13, 2020
A map of the Galactic plane above 56 TeV. These are the highest-energy gamma-ray sources ever observed.
There are many unanswered questions about cosmic-ray origins and acceleration mechanisms. Since these particles are charged,
they are deflected in magnetic fields on their way to the Earth and do not point back to their sources. High-energy Gamma rays are produced
near cosmic-ray acceleration sites and since they are neutral, they can be used to probe cosmic-ray acceleration. High-energy gamma rays
can also be produced via other mechanisms, such as lower-energy photons scattering off electrons. This commonly occurs near
HAWC has observed nine gamma-ray sources emitting above 56 TeV, with three of them continuing emission to 100 TeV and beyond.
The results have been accepted in Physical Review Letters.
These are the highest-energy sources ever observed in our galaxy and have energies of about ten times higher than any particles
produced using particle colliders on Earth. All of the sources have extremely energetic pulsars nearby. The number of sources
seen may indicate that ultra-high-energy emission is a generic feature of pulsar wind nebula.
HAWC's funding includes the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy Office of High-Energy Physics, Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia, and the Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program of Los Alamos National Laboratory. For complete funding information see the acknowledgments here.
Link to press release
HAWC and IceCube Join Efforts to
Analyze the Anisotropy of Cosmic Rays
December 17, 2018
Cosmic rays swirling through space constantly bombard Earth from every
direction. Out of every 1,000 cosmic rays there is roughly one cosmic ray
with a preferred (non-random) arrival direction. This 0.1% effect is called
the cosmic-ray anisotropy. The anisotropy is associated with the
distribution of cosmic sources in the Milky Way and the properties of the
Galactic magnetic field through which the cosmic rays propagate.
The all-sky distribution in the relative intensity of 10 TeV cosmic rays
observed by the HAWC and IceCube Observatories. The red color indicates
an excess of cosmic rays with respect to the mean flux, and blue
indicates a deficit. On the left, the white arrow indicates the
direction of motion of the solar system through the local interstellar
medium. The black lines indicate the local interstellar magnetic field
outside the heliosphere. The right plot shows the opposite side of the
sky. (Image credit: Savannah Guthrie, WIPAC
Measurements of the anisotropy are performed by ground-based
observatories such as HAWC and the IceCube Neutrino Observatory.
Unfortunately, the field of view of any single ground-based experiment is
limited, since only a fraction of the sky can be observed. Therefore, HAWC
(located in the Northern Hemisphere) and IceCube (at the South Pole) have
combined their cosmic ray datasets to construct the first all-sky map of
cosmic rays at 10 TeV. The results have been accepted for publication in The
Astrophysical Journal and include measurements showing how the
anisotropy varies as a function of angular scale.
The analysis, performed by Juan Carlos Díaz-Vélez (UdG, UW-Madison),
Paolo Desiati (UW-Madison), Dan Fiorino (UMD), and Markus Ahlers (NBI) has
resulted in a measurement of the large-scale structure of the anisotropy
— its so-called dipole component — that is free of bias due to
partial sky coverage. The measurements indicate that the dipole excess and
deficit are aligned with the direction of the local interstellar magnetic
field. This fact allowed the team to infer the North-South component of the
dipole on the celestial sphere, a measurement not possible with only one
instrument. The anisotropy is likely caused by the structure of the
magnetic field and the location of the cosmic ray accelerators nearest to
Earth. A future study extending the combined analysis beyond 10 TeV will be
used to disentangle the two effects.
HAWC Observes Particle Acceleration in Astrophysical Jets
October 3, 2018
Active galactic nuclei (AGN) produce powerful jets of ionized matter
which are believed to accelerate the highest energy hadronic cosmic rays.
Observing gamma rays from jets would be strong evidence of such particle
acceleration. Unfortunately, most AGN are too far away to spatially resolve
their jets with the current generation of gamma-ray telescopes. However, it
is possible to observe jets in microquasars, extreme star systems
in the Milky Way that behave like AGN in miniature.
Left: gamma rays recorded by HAWC from the extended pulsar wind nebula
MGRO J1908+06 (center) and the lobes of SS 433/W50 (lower right).
Right: the gamma-ray "lobes" of SS 433/W50 after subtraction
of gamma rays from MGRO J1908+06. The light semicircular region
indicates the part of the sky used to fit and subtract the emission.
Using 1,017 days of data from HAWC, researchers have made the first
observation of jets from the Galactic microquasar SS 433. SS 433 is a
binary system located inside the supernova remmant W50. It produces two
strong jets which interact with the remnant and create intense
"lobes" of radio and X-ray emission. The measurements from HAWC,
in Nature, indicate gamma rays in spatial coincidence with the
radio and X-ray "lobes." The data are consistent with gamma rays
of at least 25 TeV in energy, suggesting the presence of a population of
charged particles with energies up to 1 PeV.
The spectral energy distribution of radio, X-ray, and gamma-ray
emission from the eastern X-ray lobe of SS 433/W50. The solid and
dashed lines indicate the best fit emission models assuming the
radiation is produced by electrons and positrons; the dash-dotted line
indicates the very high-energy radiation produced by protons.
Modeling of the gamma-ray flux from the lobes suggests that most if not
all of the radiation may originate from leptonic rather than hadronic
cosmic rays. However, the measurements from HAWC do not rule out the
possibility that hadronic cosmic rays are accelerated in this system.
Future measurements with HAWC and imaging air Cherenkov telescopes will
better constrain the energy spectrum and help identify the origin of the
Stefan Westerhoff: 1967-2018
August 10, 2018
It is with great sorrow that we mourn the loss of our colleague Stefan
Westerhoff, who passed away on August 5, 2018 after battling a long illness.
Stefan played a huge role in making HAWC a success. He was an excellent
scientist and an even better friend. We will miss him dearly.
Stefan with HAWC colleagues in Houghton, Michigan, September 2013.
A memorial service will be held in his honor on August 25, 2018 in Madison, WI. Information about the service and memorial donations is available here.
HAWC Gamma-Ray Data Now Public
January 31, 2018
Data from the 2HWC
survey of very-high energy gamma rays and other HAWC papers are now
available for public download from the HAWC data repository:
Users can download point source data from the
2HWC catalog with full
flux and significance estimates. The repository also provides a coordinate
view of the entire HAWC skymap, allowing users to query the flux and
statistical significance of excess gamma rays from any location in the HAWC
field of view. To use this feature, navigate to:
HAWC Data Repository: Coordinate View
We ask that you please acknowledge any use of the data. We would also
appreciate it if you please email our spokespersons
(and possibly the relevant science convener, listed here), if you
intend to submit a publication using the HAWC public data.
HAWC Sheds Light on Origin of Excess Antimatter
November 16, 2017
In 2008, astronomers observed an unexpectedly high number of positrons
(the antimatter cousins of electrons) above Earth's atmosphere. Ever since,
scientists have been split over the origin of the anomalous positrons: the
particles might come from nearby pulsars, or from decay and annihilation of
Left: spatial morphology of TeV emission from Geminga and its
neighbor PSR B0656+14.
Right: schematic illustration of the observed region and the
line of sight to Earth. Positrons from Geminga and PSR B0656+14 must
diffuse 250 pc to affect the local flux.
Using new data from HAWC, researchers have made the first detailed
gamma-ray maps of two pulsars thought to be the best candidate sources of
the positron excess. The measurements, published
today in Science,
show that these pulsars are not the source of anomalous positrons observed
at Earth. While the measurements do not rule out the pulsar hypothesis,
they do eliminate two of the most probable local accelerators.
Estimated positron flux at Earth from Geminga (blue solid line),
computed using the surface brightness of the pulsar wind nebula
measured with HAWC. The green points show the positron flux measured
HAWC Featured on Science Podcast
April 4, 2017
The Relatively Certain podcast (produced by the Joint Quantum Institute at University
of Maryland) has featured HAWC for its recently relaunched show. Check it out!
HAWC Reveals New Look at the Very High-Energy Sky
April 18, 2016
Today members of the HAWC Collaboration presented a new survey of the
gamma-ray sky to the public and the scientific community at the annual April
Meeting of the American Physics Society in Salt Lake City, Utah.
A view of two-thirds of the entire sky with very high-energy gamma rays
observed by HAWC during 340 days of data taking between November 2014
and November 2015. Clearly visible are many sources in the Milky Way
and the extragalactic objects Markarian 421 and 501. Several well-known
constellations are shown as a reference.
The new gamma-ray sky map shows many objects along the plane of the
Milky Way Galaxy, several of which have not been previously observed.
A zoomed-in view of the Galactic Plane showing sources of TeV gamma
rays observed in the HAWC survey.
HAWC Collaborators at the APS meeting. Back row: P. Harding (LANL),
T. Yapici (MSU), A. Albert (LANL), Z. Hampel-Arias (UW), M. Mostafá
(PSU), R. Lauer (UNM), T. Weisgarber (UW), C. Brisbois (MTU), I. Wisher
(UW). Front row: H. Zhou (MTU), K. Malone (PSU), B. Dingus (LANL), C.M.
Hui (NASA-Marshall), A.W. Smith (UMD), D. Kieda (UU), A. Barber (UU),
H. Ayala-Solares (MTU).
For more information, see:
HAWC in the press:
HAWC Announces its First Transient
April 7, 2016
HAWC has made its first externally-announced transient trigger, a
gamma-ray flare from the active galaxy Markarian 501. This object is known
to exhibit periods of strongly increased gamma-ray emission. HAWC monitors
Mrk 501 every day and observed the source emitting more than 5 times
its average flux on April 6, 2016.
For more information, see:
The HAWC online monitoring display showing the signficance of emission
from Mrk 501 (top left) on April 6, 2016, and the light curve for the
previous week (bottom left). The April 6 flare is circled in red.
HAWC Awarded Funding to Construct an Array of Outrigger Tanks
September 25, 2015
HAWC Collaborator Brenda Dingus (Los Alamos National Laboratory, USA)
has been awarded a Laboratory Directed Research and Development grant to
construct a sparse array of "outrigger" tanks around the central HAWC
array. The purpose of the outriggers is to enhance the effective area and
sensitivity of the detector to air showers above 10 TeV by a factor of
2 to 4.
Left: location of HAWC between Sierra Negra and Pico de Orizaba. Right:
a zoomed-in view of the HAWC site showing the completed central array
and a possible layout of the outrigger array.
The outriggers will be used to identify the core positions of
high-energy air showers which fall outside the central array. Because
their shower cores are not contained inside the main array, these events
are difficult to reconstruct with the current configuration of the HAWC
detector. (See arXiv:1509.04269 for more
The HAWC Collaboration is grateful to Los Alamos National Laboratory for
its support of this crucial detector upgrade. Dingus and collaborators
will begin carrying out surveys and design studies for the outriggers in
October 2015, followed by an environmental impact review. Completion of
the outrigger array is expected in early 2017.
HAWC Observatory Formally Inaugurated
in Ceremony at Sierra Negra
March 20, 2015
Construction of the HAWC Observatory began in 2010. Today, the
detector was formally inaugurated by members of the collaboration,
representatives from collaborating institutions and the particle
astrophysics community, and representatives from CONACyT, the US National
Science Foundation (NSF), and the US Department of Energy (DOE) in a
ceremony at the detector site at Sierra Negra.
Enrique Cabrero, General Director of CONACyT, and France Córdova,
Director of the NSF, complete the HAWC Inauguration Ceremony by
starting a new detector run. (Image credit: La
Razón de San Luis Potosí
The ceremony capped a
celebrating the completion of HAWC. On Thursday March 19, over 250 people
participated in an inaugural symposium surveying the state of high energy
particle astrophysics at the
Universitario of BUAP in Puebla. The speakers included guests from
most of the major gamma-ray, cosmic-ray, and neutrino observatories in
operation around the world, as well as leading theorists in the field.
Today HAWC collaborators and invited guests traveled up the mountain to
tour the HAWC site and view work by school children and artists from the
town of Texmalaquilla. At noon, Enrique Cabrero, director of CONACyT, and
France Córdova, director of NSF, officially inaugurated the detector by
starting a new data acquisition run.
Water Filtration and Delivery Completed
January 15, 2015
Today the last empty tanks at HAWC were filled with purified water,
completing the process of construction, bladder deployment, water delivery,
The water filtration plant in the HAWC Utility Building at Sierra
The total weight of water moved, filtered, and delivered for the tanks
is 55 kilotons, corresponding to a volume of 55 million liters. This volume
is equivalent to one can of soda for every man, woman, and child in Mexico.
The weight is equivalent to 110 fully loaded 747 jumbo jets.
This achievement was made possible by many members of the
collaboration, as well as the guards at the site and the drivers who
brought much of the water from the filtration plant in Esperanza to Sierra
Negra. In particular, we wish to recognize the efforts of these
Miguel Angel (Plumber)
Luis M Bautista
Manuel Zamora (Softener)
Final HAWC Tank Deployed at Sierra Negra
December 15, 2014
Today at noon, the assembly of the HAWC tanks ended with the completion
of the steel frame of tank X01, the 300th tank to be deployed on the
observatory platform at Sierra Negra. During the next few weeks, X01 and
approximately 40 other tanks at the site will have bladders installed, be
filled with water, and be incorporated into the data acquisition system,
thus completing the full array after four years of construction.
HAWC site construction crew in front of completed WCD X01, tank number
The HAWC Collaboration wishes to recognize the tremendous dedication of
the construction crew, many of whom hail from the nearby towns of
Atzitzintla and Texmalaquia. Without their efforts, the timely and safe
completion of the HAWC detector would not have been possible.
Karen Caballero Receives L'Oreal-UNESCO
Award from Mexican Academy of Science
November 6, 2014
Congratulations to HAWC Collaborator Karen S. Caballero-Mora, who has
received the L'Oreal-UNESCO-AMC (Academia Mexicana de Ciencias) award for
women in science. Dr. Cabellero-Mora is a researcher in the Physics
Department of the Centro de Investigación de Estudios Avanzados (Center for
Advanced Studies, or CINVESTAV) of
the Instituto Politécnico Nacional in Mexico City.
Dr. Karen S. Caballero-Mora, HAWC member and researcher at
Dr. Caballero-Mora has been recognized for her work on the mass
composition of cosmic rays measured by the Pierre Auger Observatory and her efforts
to improve the reconstruction and background suppression algorithms used in
Reference: "Avances en la Investigación de los Rayos Cósmicos de Alta
AMC/380/14 (in Spanish).
First Science Results from HAWC:
Observation of the Anisotropy of Cosmic Rays
October 16, 2014
Between the start of regular operations in June 2013 and February 2014,
the HAWC detector recorded close to 50 billion cosmic rays and gamma rays.
With these high statistics, the collaboration has been able to measure a
significant small-scale anisotropy in the arrival direction distributions
of cosmic rays above 1 TeV.
Celestial coordinates of small-scale cosmic-ray hot spots observed with
the first 9 months of data from HAWC.
The anisotropy, also observed by the IceCube Neutrino Observatory in the
Southern Hemisphere, includes large-scale structures of amplitude
10-3 and small-scale 10° "hot spots" of amplitude
10-4. Although the hotspots have been observed in the Northern
Hemisphere by the Milagro, Tibet, and ARGO detectors (among others) their
origin is not known. They may be created by turbulence in the Galactic
magnetic field, or more exotic processes such as the decay of quark matter
in pulsars or the self-annihilation of dark matter in the Galaxy.
Reference: "Observation of Small-Scale Anisotropy in the Arrival
Direction Distribution of TeV Cosmic Rays with HAWC," A.U. Abeysekara et
al. [HAWC Collaboration]. Accepted by the Astrophysical Journal,
Sensitivity of HAWC to Gamma Rays
Produced in the Self-Annihilation of Dark Matter
October 14, 2014
HAWC was designed to detect cosmic rays and gamma rays from
astrophysical sources. However, by observing massive objects that are
expected to produce relatively few astrophysical gamma rays, the detector
can also be used to search for gamma rays created in the self-annihilation
of multi-TeV dark matter.
Estimated limits on the dark matter self-annihilation cross section
after five years of observations of the extended objects M31 and the
Virgo Cluster with HAWC. The dashed lines show the limits after
including Sommerfeld enhancements of the cross section.
The detector is particularly well-suited to observe extended objects,
because the gamma-ray signal from dark matter can be boosted by
substructure (or "clumpiness") in these objects. Further gains in
sensitivity are possible if the dark matter undergoes low-velocity resonant
scattering, known as Sommerfeld enhancement.
The sensitivity of HAWC to dark matter annihilation under various
scenarios has been calculated in a paper to appear in Physical Review
D. With several years of data from the full array, HAWC has a good
chance of either observing high-mass dark matter or placing a strong limit
on its mass and cross section above 1 TeV.
Reference: "The Sensitivity of HAWC to High-Mass Dark Matter
Annihilations," A.U. Abeysekara et al. [HAWC Collaboration]. Accepted by
Physical Review D,
New Limits Placed on Evaporation of
Primordial Black Holes using Data from Milagro and HAWC
October 6, 2014
Primordial black holes are hypothetical objects formed by the
gravitational collapse of extreme density fluctuations in the early
universe. These objects are expected to lose mass via Hawking radiation,
and when they evaporate they can produce a burst of GeV and TeV gamma rays.
Milagro limits and HAWC sensitivity to the evaporation of primordial
black holes as a function of the duration of the gamma-ray burst.
The HAWC Observatory and its predecessor, Milagro, are sensitive to
these gamma rays and can be used to observe the evaporation of black holes
with an initial mass of 5×1011 kg (about 100 times the
mass of the
Great Pyramid of Giza). Using gamma
rays recorded by Milagro between 2000 and 2008, the HAWC and Milagro
collaborations have estimated the most sensitive current limits on the
evaporation of black holes in this mass range.
Reference: "Milagro Limits and HAWC Sensitivity for the Rate-Density of
Evaporating Primordial Black Holes," A. Abdo et al. [Milagro Collaboration]
and A.U. Abeysekara et al. [HAWC Collaboration]. Accepted by
Construction of 250th water Cherenkov
May 15, 2014
On May 15, 2014, the 250th water tank was completed at the HAWC site.
Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the site crew, construction of
HAWC has proceeded on schedule. The newest tanks will begin operating when
the data acquisition system is expanded in June.
HAWC Begins Operations at the Sierra
August 1, 2013
On August 1, 2013, the High-Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) Gamma Ray
Observatory formally began operations. HAWC is designed to study the
origin very high-energy cosmic rays and observe the most energetic objects
in the known universe.
HAWC Observes its First Source: the Moon
April 15, 2013
The HAWC Observatory has unvieled its first observation: the shadow of
the moon in cosmic rays. Although HAWC currently comprises only 30 out
of its eventual 300 water Cherenkov detectors, the measurement of the
moon shadow is above 13 sigma in significance. The measurement
was presented at the April meeting of the Americal Physics Society by
postdoctoral research Tom Weisgarber (University of Wisconsin-Madison).
The observation has also been featured in a science article by