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Cosmic Ray Spark Chambers at the University of Cambridge
In every minute of our lives, we are bathed in a "cosmic rays" -- a rain of sub-atomic particles that pass through us, through our houses, through our bodies, and pass down deep into the earth. The sources of these cosmic rays are enormously energetic processes in distant parts of our galaxy, such as the death of stars. Ordinarily these rays are invisible --- but with a spark chamber they can be seen.
In the 1930s, 40s and 50s, cosmic-ray spark-chambers were cutting edge science. These days, they are mainly used for educational purposes. Chambers installed in museums and science-centres can be used to show people that cosmic rays and sub-atomic particles are real, and exist in a tangible way. Visually, the sparks are stunning. The simplicity of the design (from the point of view of the viewer) adds to the effectiveness of the demonstration -- there are no "computers" or "screens" between the viewer and the cosmic ray. The the experience is tantamount to seeing the cosmic ray directly. This leads to a notable "wow factor" when the devices exhibited to the public. Typical comments are
"What? You mean I'm actually seeing the path of a real cosmic ray? It's in this room? It came from across the galaxy? They're going through me too? That's amazing!"
Who we are, and why we are building Spark Chambers...Skipping on down...
News: Mark III(a) Cambridge Spark Chamber sees its first Cosmic Rays
Above is a picture of our Mark III(a) museum-quality chamber. (Click on it for a higher resolution photo.) We built it for an exhibition in a science centre in Poland, and it has just seen its first cosmic rays.
News: Mark II Cambridge Spark Chamber sees Cosmic Rays.
News: Mark I (prototype) Chamber sees first cosmic rays!12th August 2009.
A higher definition mp4 file may be downloaded here.
Further information...Read More...