The relative abundance of cosmic ray nickel nuclei with respect to iron is by far larger than for all other transiron elements; therefore it provides a favorable opportunity for a low background measurement of its spectrum. Since nickel, as well as iron, is one of the most stable nuclei, the nickel energy spectrum and its relative abundance with respect to iron provide important information to estimate the abundances at the cosmic ray source and to model the Galactic propagation of heavy nuclei. However, only a few direct measurements of cosmic-ray nickel at energy larger than ∼3 GeV/n are available at present in the literature, and they are affected by strong limitations in both energy reach and statistics. In this Letter, we present a measurement of the differential energy spectrum of nickel in the energy range from 8.8 to 240 GeV/n, carried out with unprecedented precision by the Calorimetric Electron Telescope (CALET) in operation on the International Space Station since 2015. The CALET instrument can identify individual nuclear species via a measurement of their electric charge with a dynamic range extending far beyond iron (up to atomic number Z=40). The particle's energy is measured by a homogeneous calorimeter (1.2 proton interaction lengths, 27 radiation lengths) preceded by a thin imaging section (3 radiation lengths) providing tracking and energy sampling. This Letter follows our previous measurement of the iron spectrum [1O. Adriani (CALET Collaboration), Phys. Rev. Lett. 126, 241101 (2021).PRLTAO0031-900710.1103/PhysRevLett.126.241101], and it extends our investigation on the energy dependence of the spectral index of heavy elements. It reports the analysis of nickel data collected from November 2015 to May 2021 and a detailed assessment of the systematic uncertainties. In the region from 20 to 240 GeV/n our present data are compatible within the errors with a single power law with spectral index -2.51±0.07.
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