The Great Pyramid of Giza has steadfastly guarded its secrets for thousands of years, but scientists are now hoping to use cosmic rays to unlock the structure’s secrets. Unfortunately, this ambitious plan necessitates the employment of a giant telescope that is too enormous to fit within the pyramid and doesn’t even exist yet, but the authors of an unpublished paper claim to have it all worked out. The Great Pyramid of Giza, built by the pharaoh Khufu some 4,500 years ago, was extensively studied by researchers in the 19th century.
Excavators peered into the ancient wonder’s darkest recesses and discovered three inner chambers: the King’s Chamber, the Queen’s Chamber, and the Grand Gallery. The King’s Chamber contains a stone sarcophagus, probably belonging to Khufu himself. Scientists chose to examine the pyramid in 2015 after accusing the elderly pharaoh of adding a few more concealed rooms to his structure. They did this by installing a network of muon detectors in the Queen’s room.
When cosmic rays hit with atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere, muons are generated. Muons are negatively charged elementary particles. Researchers have previously reconstructed the inner structure of volcanoes by tracking the movement of these particles through solid rock. It is estimated that every square meter of the earth gets assaulted with roughly 10,000 muons each minute. Because stone obstructs muons, any holes above the Queen’s Chamber had a significant impact on the pace at which these particles reached the receptor. The presence of two previously undetectable cavities within the Great Pyramid was revealed as a result of this, one of which was 30 meters (100 feet) in length.
It’s unclear if these secret apertures hold the bones of an ancient pharaoh or just had a practical purpose in the pyramid’s construction, which is why the authors of the new preprint publication aim to investigate them further. However, doing so will necessitate the development of a major piece of equipment. “We propose to deploy a telescope system with up to 100 times the sensitivity of the equipment previously employed at the Great Pyramid,” they write, “that will scan muons from practically all angles and, for the first time, generate a true tomographic image of such a massive structure.”
“Right now, we’re working on building the prototype telescope.” This equipment will most likely be too enormous to fit within the pyramid when it is completed, thus it will not be utilized to monitor the flow of muons dropping through the stone from above. Instead, the crew intends to gather measurements from various angles around the structure’s outside.
“For each muon detected by the telescope, the muon trajectory is computed and projected back into the pyramid,” they write, explaining how this is possible. These “back-projected” tracks are then utilized to fill 3D histograms representing voxels in the pyramid’s interior where the track passed.” Alan Bross, the study’s lead author, told Live Science that he and his colleagues are currently looking for funds to build their cosmic pharaoh scanner. “We anticipate it will take [approximately] two years to create the detectors once we get full financing,” he continued. Perhaps then Khufu will finally reveal his secrets.