Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

100 years of cosmic rays mystery

Date:
July 31, 2012
Source:
Institute of Physics (IOP)
Summary:
Experts explain how physicists have gradually revealed the nature of cosmic rays and examines the progress being made in understanding where they come from.

As physicists gather in early August to celebrate a century since the initial discovery of cosmic rays, Alan Watson, emeritus professor of physics at the University of Leeds, explains how physicists have gradually revealed the nature of these mysterious objects and examines the progress being made in understanding where they come from.

Related Articles


It is now widely accepted that cosmic rays are the nuclei of atoms, from the entire range of naturally occurring elements, that travel at near-light-speeds for millions of years before reaching Earth. However, identifying the source of cosmic rays has proved to be a very difficult task.

The Pierre Auger Observatory -- a 3000 km2 site in Argentina -- is one of many institutions around the world scouring the universe for the source of cosmic rays and currently has 1600 Cherenkov detectors in operation, each looking to find the source of cosmic-ray showers with extremely high energies.

This is in massive contrast to the techniques used by Austrian scientist Victor Hess, who was the first to discover cosmic rays on 7 August 1912 by travelling 5000 m above ground in a hot-air balloon. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1936 for his efforts.

The story of cosmic rays started in the 1780s when French physicist Charles-Augustin de Coulomb noticed that an electrically charged sphere spontaneously lost its charge, which at the time was strange as scientists believed that air was an insulator, rather than a conductor.

Further investigations showed that air became a conductor when the molecules were ionized by charged particles or X-rays.

The source of these charged particles puzzled scientists as experiments revealed that objects were losing their charge even when shielded by a large volume of lead, which was known to block X-rays and other radioactive sources.

Hess was the first to discover that the ionization of air was three times greater at high altitudes than it was at ground level, leading him to conclude that there was a very large source of radiation penetrating our atmosphere from above.

Watson states that there is an unexpected benefit stemming from Hess's original cosmic-ray research: the designer of the communications system at the Pierre Auger Observatory has used the same sophisticated software to build a radio-based signalling system that now extends over 700 km of the single-track train line in the Scottish Highlands.

"The safety and reliability that rail travellers now enjoy while passing by lochs and through glens is a benefit from Hess's daring flight a century ago that surely he could never have foreseen," Watson writes.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Institute of Physics (IOP). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Institute of Physics (IOP). "100 years of cosmic rays mystery." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120731201214.htm>.
Institute of Physics (IOP). (2012, July 31). 100 years of cosmic rays mystery. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120731201214.htm
Institute of Physics (IOP). "100 years of cosmic rays mystery." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120731201214.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

China Prepares Unmanned Mission To Lunar Orbit

China Prepares Unmanned Mission To Lunar Orbit

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) — The mission is China's next step toward automated sample-return missions and eventual manned missions to the moon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 22, 2014) — Russian cosmonauts Maxim Suraev and Alexander Samokutyaev step outside the International Space Station to perform work on the exterior of the station's Russian module. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — A comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system passed extremely close to Mars this weekend, giving astronomers a rare opportunity to study it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) — Argentina launches a home-built satellite, a first for Latin America. It will ride a French-made Ariane 5 rocket into orbit, and will provide cell phone, digital TV, Internet and data services to the lower half of South America. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins