Cosmic Ray Detector at Home

By Anupum Pant

Cosmic rays are a very interesting form of radiation. They are a stream of extremely high energy particles, travelling at almost the speed of light, originating from very high energy events in our universe. It is believed that supernovae are a major source of cosmic rays. However, a lot about these particles is still a mystery.

An incredible three million of these particles, each with energy as much as a fast baseball, go through you every day. And yet, we are never aware of something like that happening. The earth magnetic field protects us from the full brunt of these rays, still a significant number of them are able to pass.

Another interesting thing about them is that when they strike the earth’s atmosphere, they form particles called pions which decay into muons. Muons have a very short lifespan. They don’t exist for more than a few micro seconds. Which means they shouldn’t be able to travel more than a few hundred meters.

Yet millions of them, travel great distances, and go through each of our bodies everyday. That is because, since they travel at almost the speed of light, relativistic effects come into play. Time is slowed down for them. So, from our frame of reference they are able to exist for a far longer time and reach us.

They are far too small to be seen or noticed. But did you know, the foot prints of these particles raining through your body can actually be seen? In fact, they can be seen using a simple $30 spark chamber constructed at home. See the video below.

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