Cosmic Ray Facts

Cosmic rays are a never ending source of wonder, comfort, experimentation and debate. They are charged particles from outer space that move at the speed of light. Each new fact discovered brings on new questions and new searches and new missions to learn more about the construction, the activity and the probability of their future impact on the world at large.

The first note that someone looked heavenward and wondered what was up there in the unknown was in 4,500 BC; over 2,000 years later in 2000 Egypt and Mesopotamia observed and mapped the sky. An eclipse was first noted in 1223 BC4 and in 800 BC a sunspot was observed. That fact was recorded in China’s “Book of Changes”.  In 440 BC an atom as an indivisible unit of matter was describe and. In 440 BC the Chinese invented a magnetic compass.

Ever since, more facts have been learned about charged particles and how they react under different circumstances and under different conditions.Cosmic rays are mainly made up of protons which are nuclei of hydrogen atoms plus smaller amounts of carbon, nitrogen, and often traces of other elements. When they clash into each other they create energy while dividing into more particles. These secondary particles take on the characteristics of the primary cosmic rays; with a few exceptions such as are observed more or less or here and there.

These secondary protons, mesons, electrons and gamma rays are highly energetic and often collide as they make their way toward earth’s atmosphere or toward some other object in the universe. The lower level particles are the basis of the earths mass. In easier to understand terms, it is the fallout from outer space – the heavens – that created the earth. This fact of the matter of our being has created debate upon debate.

Whatever, the atom, the smallest unit of a chemical element having the properties of that element is at the core of it all. At its center is the nucleus which is composed of neutrons and protons, charged and uncharged particles. Surrounding this center are electrons which encircle the nucleus. The atomic number of an element means how many electrons the atom has. An ion refers to the attraction between atoms. If no strong attraction there is neutrality and nothing happens. No collision is made and there is no exchange of electrons. But let them collide and you have a burst of energy. This activity is ongoing and is the reason for speculation, for curiosity and is, in a nutshell, what makes the world go around.

And go around it does. Data is heaped upon data and new discoveries only add to the still unknown. Refutations of past data come about when newer and more accurate information is learned. The Genesis Spacecraft was launched in 2001 to learn more about the Solar Wind. But essentially, they want to get information on how the world came to be, and what keeps it alive and sputtering. Its known all actions are made up of force the – pushing and shoving – gravitation -an affinity of one particle toward another – electro magnetism – an inability to move away from the gravitational pull, plus a horde of weaker interactions that add up to energy stashes. “Unfortunately, during descent on September 8, 2004, the Genesis crashed into the earth at high velocity. Its descent was only slowed by air resistance and the collection capsule was damaged on impact.”

The big question, how did we get here? “A cloud of gas filled with atoms that was made by the stars, squeezed itself together so tightly that its center exploded into a nuclear furnace and became our sun. The remaining bits and pieces of the cloud, known as the solar nebula, clumped together and formed the planets, moons, asteroids, and comets”. In other words, God burped.