The Centenary Flight of Victor Hess

Victor Hess, 1912

Who was Victor Hess? Victor Hess was an Austrian physicist who, in August of 1912, commanded a hydrogen-filled balloon through Northern Bohemia on a scientific expedition.

Ascending to an altitude of over 17,000 feet, Hess provided evidence that the penetrating ionizing radiation that had long been detected at the surface of the Earth was not from terrestrial sources, but instead was showering down upon us from outer space. Hess’s work earned him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1936.

Hess’s conclusion was confirmed a decade later by Robert Millikan, who actually coined the term “cosmic rays” to describe the phenomenon. Hess’s discovery opened the door for research being conducted still today in nuclear and high energy particle physics.

Using modern technology, Physics Outreach will re-enact Hess’s experiment they same way he did it – from the basket of a balloon! Follow the story at Purdue QuarkNet.

Last Updated: May 25, 2016 1:05 PM