by Contributed News
Every second, each square meter of the earth is bombarded by thousands of charged particles travelling from extragalactic sources deep in space. These charged particles called cosmic rays that struck us form half of the background radiation that we are all subject to although we don’t really notice nor feel it.
The International Cosmic Day (ICD2018) took place for the seventh time on November 29, 2018 when mostly young people around the world carried out experiments on these cosmic particles that fly through us unnoticed. MSU-IIT was one of the participants along with 60 other schools, universities and research institutes in over 15 countries.
Cosmic rays were first discovered more than a century ago yet up to the present time they present major challenges to physics. The biggest mystery is the origin of these high-energy cosmic particles. Their energy is just too high to have been generated by astrophysical sources such as supernovae, pulsars, colliding galaxies and even black holes. The interest in cosmic rays however lies beyond astrophysics. Recent studies in Europe suggest that cosmic rays may influence atmospheric cloud cover through the formation of new aerosols and as such bring important implications for the evolution of Earth’s climate. Thus the study of cosmic rays may usher in unprecedented insights not only for physics but also for education and the environment.
On International Cosmic Day, the measurement of directions of cosmic ray muons are taken by participating groups around the world that possess working cosmic ray detectors. Then they share their measurements across the world via video conferences. Some of the burning questions to be answered are: Do we get the same number of muons from all directions or is there a preferred direction? Are the number of cosmic muons detected the same for different countries? Is the sun among the sources of these cosmic particles?
With regard to these measurements, MSU-IIT can stake its claim as being the first and perhaps the only institution in the entire country to have measured the number of cosmic ray muons hitting the Philippine soil. In fact some of these measurement data taken about twenty years are still accessible online. Unfortunately, MSU-IIT’s cosmic ray muon detectors have stopped working long time ago and has not been refurbished since its acquisition in 1995.
Fortunately in 2018, for the first time, it became possible to participate in the International Cosmic Day without having to take your own measurements. That is, for those groups which do not have a functioning detector , MSU-IIT included, they can analyze the data provided by the Organizers. These data are measured using a cosmic muon detector assembly based in Germany taken during most of the year 2017 and are publicly accessible.
On November 29, 2018, Khate Bayer, Maynard Limbaco, Jeremiah Juevesano and Jan Risty Marzon led more than a dozen MSU-IIT physics students at the PRISM Building during the ICD2018 video conference where they reported the results of their analysis of the angular distribution of cosmic ray muons. What they found was that the cosmic ray muons arriving on earth are preferentially oriented more in the vertical direction than sideways. Also, during night time, the number of cosmic muons are more numerous than during the day time which points to the fact that the sun is not the source of these particles. Their analysis also show that the flux of cosmic ray muons hitting the earth is more abundant at lower air temperature and at lower atmospheric pressure. In addition, at winter time there are more cosmic ray muons measured than during the summer months.
The International Cosmic Day is organized by Germany’s largest accelerator center, DESY, which conducts a broad spectrum of inter-disciplinary scientific research in high energy physics, photon science and particle accelerators. For further details, refer to the ICD2018 website: https://icd.desy.de.