26 March 2007

Practical Benefits of Particle Physics #3

Cosmic Rays

Cosmic Rays consist of a variety of particles, mostly protons, travelling through space at extremely high speeds. When they collide with nuclei in Earth's atmosphere, they produce showers of other subatomic particles, which are called "secondary cosmic rays." Though the atmosphere absorbs most of these secondary rays, the remainder arrive at Earth's surface so frequently that roughly "an area of the size of a hand is still hit by about one particle per second."

Cosmic Rays were discovered in 1912 by Victor Hess, who won the Noble Prize in Physics in 1936. Many sources, including our sun, other objects in the Milky Way, and extragalactic objects, produce Cosmic Rays. Some sources remain unknown. These particles are affect our lives in several ways.

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