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Astron. Astrophys. 359, 682-694 (2000)

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8. Conclusion

The results of this paper demonstrate that our data seem to be well described by the QGSJET hadron generator within the CORSIKA program: The energy spectra derived with different air-shower observables and assumptions about the chemical composition of CR differ only within the estimated systematic errors. This is an argument in favour of the contention that the "knee" is a feature in the primary flux of cosmic rays, rather than some new effect in the interaction of cosmic rays at very high energies. Such a new effect would probably lead to inconsistencies in the data analysed by a generator that does not take them into account.

Up to the knee we find a mixed composition and an energy-spectrum power law index consistent with the results of direct experiments at energies around 100 TeV. The data favour a gradual enrichment in heavy elements at energies above the knee but the systematic errors of our experiment do not allow to rule out a constant composition. An abrupt change of composition or a substantial enrichment in light elements at the knee is ruled out. We find an elongation rate of about 78 g/cm2 and a mean penetration depth consistent with other experimental data on CR with energies higher than studied here (Watson 1997).

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© European Southern Observatory (ESO) 2000

Online publication: July 7, 2000