The HiSPARC experiment

K. van Dam*, B. van Eijk, D. B.R.A. Fokkema, J. W. van Holten, A. P.L.S. de Laat, N. G. Schultheiss, J. J.M. Steijger, J. C. Verkooijen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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The High School Project on Astrophysics Research with Cosmics (HiSPARC) is a large extensive air shower (EAS) array with detection stations throughout the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Denmark and Namibia. HiSPARC is a collaboration of universities, scientific institutes and high schools. The majority of detection stations is hosted by high schools. A HiSPARC station consists of two or four scintillators placed inside roof boxes on top of a building. The measured response of a detector to single incoming muons agrees well with GEANT4 simulations. The response of a station to EASs agrees with simulations as well. A four-scintillator station was integrated in the KASCADE experiment and was used to determine the accuracy of the shower direction reconstruction. Using simulations, the trigger efficiency of a station to detect a shower as function of both distance to the shower core and zenith angle was determined. The HiSPARC experiment is taking data since 2003. The number of stations (∼140 in 2019) still increases. The project demonstrates that its approach is viable for educational purposes and that scientific data can be obtained in a collaboration with high school students and teachers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number163577
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalNuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research, Section A: Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors and Associated Equipment
Early online date5 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2020


The HiSPARC experiment could not have been realized without the interest of and contributions from the high schools, their physics teachers, technical assistants, ICT departments and, most importantly, their students. Schools managed to access public funds, but also received financial contributions from individuals and commercial businesses. The exhaustive list of persons, institutions and companies that (financially and/or in person) support the project is too long to give here. In 2004 HiSPARC received the ?Altran Foundation for Innovation? award ?Discovering, understanding and enjoying science through innovation? [56,57]. We are indebted to Altran for their commitment and the exposure the award generated. The Dutch National Institute for Subatomic Physics (Nikhef), The Netherlands has been indispensable for the development and realization of the project. The institute offered financial support, lab space, enabled the development of detector hardware and electronics, software and ICT infrastructure for data transfer and data storage. Without the generous help of Nikhef's former director Frank Linde and Nikhef's managing director Arjen van Rijn the realization of the project would not have been possible. We are grateful that the KASCADE collaboration offered us the opportunity to install a test station at their site in Karlsruhe, and supplied us with the necessary infrastructure and KASCADE data.

FundersFunder number
Altran Foundation for Innovation56,57
Dutch National Institute for Subatomic Physics


    • Cosmic rays
    • Extensive air shower detector
    • High school
    • HiSPARC
    • Outreach
    • Scintillation detector


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