Research Papers in Physics and Astronomy


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Published at arXiv:physics/0311060v1. Used by permission.


The Cosmic Ray Observatory Project (CROP) at University of Nebraska/Lincoln and the Washington Area Large-scale Time coincidence Array (WALTA) at University of Washington/Seattle are among several outreach projects siting cosmic-ray detectors at local high schools in cities around North America, to study the origins and interactions of highenergy cosmic rays. In a collaboration between QuarkNet, the outreach program based at Fermilab, CROP, and WALTA, a low-cost data acquisition electronics card has been developed to collect and synchronize the data from each detector site. The cost for each card is under US$500 for parts, functionally replacing much more expensive electronics crates and modules at each high school site. The card has 4 analog discriminator inputs for photo-multiplier tube signals, a 4-channel Time-to-Digital converter for local coincidence and time-over-threshold measurements at 0.75 ns resolution, programmable trigger logic via a CPLD and microcontroller, and a built-in low-cost GPS receiver/antenna module (via external cable) to provide event trigger time stamps at better than 100 ns accuracy. Temperature sensors and a barometer are also integrated to record environmental data along with the counter data. The card connects to any PC or laptop via a standard RS-232 serial port for data output and control. The microcontroller and CPLD are field programmable and therefore make the card functionality flexible and easy to upgrade.

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