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Characterization of atmospheric properties over the Cherenkov Telescope Array at La Palma
Miha Živec, doctoral dissertation

Abstract: Imaging Atmospheric Cherenkov Telescope (IACT) systems are used in high-energy astrophysics to detect and study gamma-ray sources in the universe. These telescopes measure properties of cosmic gamma rays using Cherenkov radiation emitted by secondary particles produced after interacting with the Earth’s atmosphere. Atmospheric monitoring is crucial for the proper operation of IACT systems. A number of remote sensing and in situ methods are used to understand and correct the effects of the atmosphere on the propagation of Cherenkov radiation from its origin to the telescope. Failure to do so greatly decreases IACT performance, particularly, their energy resolution and threshold. Lidar systems can be used to measure atmospheric optical depth profiles, which are essential for IACT calibration. The main aim of this thesis is to demonstrate that a prototype lidar for the north-ern site of the Cherenkov Telescope Array Observatory (CTAO), which is a next-generation IACT now under construction, has hardware and software capabilities that would lead to the construction of CTAO Raman lidar. Due to specific require-ments of the CTAO, a Raman lidar, which can provide better atmospheric parameter accuracy, will be used for the first time in an IACT system. In 2021-2022 the BRL was deployed to the future CTAO-North site at the Roque de los Muchachos observatory, La Palma, for testing in its actual operating conditions. During a year and a half long test period, it underwent a number of tests, including manual and remote operation under various environmental conditions. These included hot summers, cold winters, rain, snow, ice, and strong winds, but also some more exotic events, such as desert sand intrusions (Calima) and volcanic eruptions. The latter two are presented in this work as test cases for atmospheric characterization. Since the main goal of a CTAO lidar is the optical depth measurements, the BRL does not have the full set of features for aerosol characterization. While it can yield the ˚Angstr¨om exponent and lidar ratio, it does not provide depolarization informa-tion, which is one of the key components for aerosol typing. As the atmosphere at La Palma was found to be more complex than initially anticipated, we present the benefits of including depolarization capability by using a conceptually similar Raman lidar system specifically designed for aerosol characterization. We present the results of a campaign focused on the determination of bioaerosol capabilities to act as cloud condensation nuclei and ice-nucleating particles in mixed-phase clouds, where depo-larization information was used to determine the thermodynamic phase of the cloud.
Keywords: Cherenkov Telescope Array Observatory, Raman Lidar, atmospheric optical depth, aerosol characterization, Cumbre Vieja, Calima
Published in RUNG: 23.10.2023; Views: 1029; Downloads: 34
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