Faculty of Sciences | School of Chemistry and Physics The University of Adelaide Australia
Physics Reseach Home
Astrophysics Home
Pierre Auger Project
Astrophysics Theory
H.E.S.S. Project
HiRes Project
Muon Detector
Group Calendar
Paddy McGee's Pictures
Radio Astronomy
Cosmic Bullets
Group Members
Group Meeting Talks

School of Chemistry & Physics

Telephone: +61 8 8303 5996
Facsimile: +61 8 8303 4380


UHE neutrinos are the key to determining the origin of the highest energy particles in nature. This subject is of great importance to our understanding of the Universe as it impacts on our knowledge of dark matter, gravity and high energy particle interactions. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences report of the Turner committee "Connecting Quarks with the Cosmos" lists as one of the Eleven Science Questions for the New Century: "How do cosmic accelerators work and what are they accelerating?" Indeed, one of this committee's seven key recommendations is to "Determine the origin of the highest-energy gamma-rays, neutrinos, and cosmic rays."

"LUNASKA, a theoretical and experimental project for UHE neutrino astrophysics using a giant radio observatory" was one of the Australian Research Council grants announced by the Federal Minister of Science on 17 November 2004. There are opportunities for PhD students or honours students and be in at the beginning of this exciting new project.

Chief Investigators

  • Associate Professor Ray Protheroe
    University of Adelaide
  • Professor Ron Ekers
    Australia Telescope National Facility

Partner Investigators

  • Professor Todor Stanev
    Bartol Research Institute
    University of Delaware
  • Professor Enrique Zas
    University of Santiago de Compostela
  • Dr. Jaime Alvarez-Muniz
    University of Santiago de Compostela

Other Participants

  • Professor Ricardo Vazquez
    University of Santiago de Compostela
  • Mr. Enrique Marques
    University of Santiago de Compostela
  • Dr. Alina Donea
    Monash University
  • Dr. Anita Reimer
    Bochum University
  • Professor Ravi Subramanyan
    Australia Telescope National Facility
  • Professor Warwick Wilson
    Australia Telescope National Facility
  • Dr. Tanja Kneiske
    University of Adelaide


Ultra high energy cosmic rays (UHECR) are the highest energy particles in nature. They are protons or atomic nuclei that have been accelerated in space to energies of up to 50 J. Their origin is currently unknown. They could be accelerated in the electromagnetic environments of active galaxies, or they may result from decay of or emission by massive relic particles or topological defects left over from the big bang. Within the next several years the world data set on UHECR and UHE neutrinos will be greatly increased after the new generation of cosmic ray and neutrino detectors is commissioned. A key to untangling the origin of the UHECR will be observations of UHE neutrinos produced during their acceleration and propagation, as well as those produced inside sources. We shall produce maps showing how UHE neutrino sky should look like for each UHE CR origin scenario. UHE neutrino astronomy needs a giant observatory. We shall investigate both theoretically, and experimentally using the Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF) Compact Array (ATCA), how best to use the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) of radio telescopes to detect coherent Cherenkov radio emission from neutrino induced cascades in lunar regolith (sandy lunar surface layer which is typically several tens of metres deep). Detailed simulations coordinated with hardware and signal processing developments will influence the design of the SKA making LUNASKA (Lunar Ultra-high-energy Neutrino Astrophysics using SKA) an enormously powerful method of observing UHE neutrinos.

PhD Projects

Both theoretical and experimental PhD projects are available. Projects at the University of Adelaide include simulation of the particle cascade from neutrino-moon rock interactions, simulation of its radio emission, and radio astronomy observations using the ATNF's Compact Array of potential sites of acceleration of UHE CR. There is the possibility of PhD students visiting research institutes of Australian and overseas collaborators and attending summer schools/conferences.

Honours Relocation Scholarships

These are available for students transferring from interstate or New Zealand.

Postgraduate Scholarships

The closing date to apply for an Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) was 31 October 2004. However, Australian and New Zealand citizens and Australian permanent residents with a good honours degree are eligible to apply for a Divisional Scholarship through the Faculty of Science University of Adelaide. For students working on the LUNASKA project would have a good honours degree in physics, astrophysics, mathematics, computing, or engineering, and successful applicants would have their award topped up to $6000 above that of an APA, and if eligible receive a relocation allowance. See advertisement  (new window).

Application Procedure

Students interested in working on the LUNASKA project should apply (preferably by email) in the first instance by giving details of your honours result, full contact details, and the names, email addresses, and phone numbers of two references to

  • Ray Protheroe
    E-mail: rprother@physics.adelaide.edu.au
    Phone: +61 8 8303 4748
    Fax: +61 8 8303 4380

Further Information on Scholarships

Further information is available on the Faculty of Sciences Postgradiate Scholarships  page, or contact

  • Raelene Wildy
    Faculty of Sciences
    E-mail: raelene.wildy@adelaide.edu.au
    Phone: +61 8 8303 5045

Further information on Scholarship applications can be found on the Graduate Centre's  website.