Take a shower in the cosmos

The detector in the cosmic ray exhibit is similar to this cosmic ray muon detector, assembled from a QuarkNet kit. Photo: Reidar Hahn

Folks can now head on over to the Lederman Science Center to take a shower—of cosmic rays, that is.

A new exhibit at Lederman Science Center dramatizes the presence of cosmic rays, which continuously pelt Earth. The rays, made up of protons and the nuclei of heavier atoms, collide with other molecules in Earth’s atmosphere and split into decays of electrons, positrons and muons. These invisible decays, or showers, bathe the planet’s lower atmosphere.

“Hopefully, people who participate will realize that we’re immersed in cosmic rays all the time,” said Todd Johnson, AD.

The display demonstrates the showers with low-energy lasers. A motion detector senses when a person steps into the phone-booth sized shower and lasers paint the individual in momentary lines of fluorescent color. A cartoon-laser sound of “pew-pew-pew” accompanies the traces.

Six scintillator panels housed in a clear panel over hanging the shower detect cosmic rays in real time.

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Ashley WennersHerron