Alpha Particle Detector
This experiment is for advanced students. Here is another way to detect cosmic rays, only this time you’ll actually see the thin, threadlike vapor trails appear and disappear. These cobwebby trails are left by the particles within minutes of creating the detector. (Be sure to complete the Cosmic Ray Detector first!)
In space, there are powerful explosions (supernovas) and rapidly-spinning neutron stars (pulsars), both of which spew out high energy particles that zoom near the speed of light. Tons of these particles zip through our atmosphere each day. There are three types of particles: alpha, beta, and gamma.
Did you know that your household smoke alarm emits alpha particles? There’s a small bit (around 1/5000th of a gram) of Americium-241, which emits an alpha particle onto a detector. As long as the detector sees the alpha particle, the smoke alarm stays quiet. However, since alpha particles are easy to block, when smoke gets in the way and blocks the alpha particles from reaching the detector, you hear the smoke alarm scream.
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