Fermi National Laboratory

Volume 25  |  Friday, February 1, 2002  |  Number 2
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Development of Giant Cosmic Ray Shower in Earth's Atmosphere

The earth is constantly bombarded by subatomic particles from space. The energy spectrum of these particles reaches far higher than any terrestrial accelerator could hope to probe. When these high-energy cosmic rays reach earth, they interact with the atoms making up the earth’s atmosphere. These high-energy interactions create an immense shower of particles, traveling in a cone centered on the direction that the original cosmic ray particle was traveling. At the highest energies, a single shower can be detected at the earth’s surface over an area on the order of 100 square kilometers. If groups of cosmic rays to reach the, earth, the effective detection area of these multiple showers can be much greater. (Courtesy of NALTA)

last modified 2/1/2002   email Fermilab