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TeV Particle Astrophysics 2009 Meeting Highlights

(Photo - TeV Particle Astrophysics 2009 participants)
Participants of the TeV Particle Astrophysics 2009 Conference. (Photo by Nicholas Bock.)

Last week SLAC hosted the TeV Particle Astrophysics 2009 conference, the fifth in a series of annual workshops exploring current results at the intersection of particle physics, astrophysics and cosmology. There were more than 170 attendees, which was a record for this meeting and is one indication of a growing and very healthy field. With extra financial help from the Department of Energy Office of High Energy Physics, many graduate students and postdocs were able to attend. Exciting new results were presented by many experiments, reflecting expectations for tremendous progress in particle astrophysics in next few years. Provocative and exciting theoretical work was also strongly represented in the session presentations. Copies of the presentations can be downloaded from the conference Web site.

John Ellis of CERN gave the first talk, an overview of progress and expectations at the Large Hadron Collider. This very interesting overview set the tone of excellence for the conference. As invited speakers Persis Drell and Roger Blandford discussed in their conference summary talks on Friday, this meeting was successful at bringing together scientists from astrophysics and particle physics and having them learn much from their interchange of physics on the interface. Among many topics, there was a strong focus on the search for dark matter using direct and indirect detection techniques with many new experimental limits and theoretical interpretations, which is of particular interest to the high energy physics community.

Persis Drell was frank in the introduction of her talk in describing a typical particle physicists view circa 2000:

  • An astronomer does stamp collecting.
  • An astrophysicist does engineering.
  • A particle physicist does fundamental science.
    • We have been humbled!
  • Stunning success of the standard cosmological model.
  • Evidence for physics beyond the Standard Model of Particle Physics
  • .
    • Evidence for beyond SM physics did not come from accelerators!

Among many new astrophysics results covered in his review talk, Roger Blandford highlighted some of the more provocative ideas presented at the meeting by eminent scientists in their respective fields:

  1. University of Michigan particle physicist Gordy Kane: Supersymmetric dark matter is already detected by PAMELA and the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, will be soon be seen more obviously by Fermi, and super partner particles will be observed by the LHC experiments.
  2. Weizmann Institute astrophysicist Eli Waxman: Additional local sources of positrons and electrons are not needed to explain recent PAMELA and Fermi telescope data showing an unexpected abundance at high energies. Existing theory (conventional diffusive theory) can account for them.
  3. University of Michigan particle astrophysicsist Katie Freese: Dark matter stars with about 1000 solar masses populated the early universe.

An air of excitement and optimism took hold of this meeting with all the interesting new results presented and the promise of many new measurements over the next few years. This was well reflected in the closing comments of Persis Drell:

  • Wealth of data and excitement
    • This is a healthy field!
    • Multiwavelength /Multi-messenger /Multicultural
  • We are bold in our aspirations!
    • Will be a rich field for decades to come
  • Particle Astrophysics is an essential part of Particle Physics!!

The next meeting in this series will take place in Paris, France, sometime in July 2010.

—Elliott Bloom
SLAC Today, July 21, 2009