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Re-making History — In the Steps of Victor Hess

Cosmic rays were serendipitously discovered by Austrian Victor Hess in 1912, concluding years of research. Expecting what he believed to be terrestrial-based radiation to diminish with altitude above the Earth, Hess actually found higher levels of radiation as he ascended almost three miles above the Earth in a hydrogen balloon. Hess’ findings led him to conclude that the radiation he measured was actually coming from space! Dr. David Sederberg, director of Purdue Physics Outreach worked with McCutcheon High School teacher Cheryl McLean, McCutcheon student Stephen Claypool, Purdue Physics major Chris Kraner, and Physics Professor Matthew Jones to put the QuarkNet detectors and newly developed software to the test in a natural field environment.

rate of muon activity vs altitude chart

The data that the two students recorded and analyzed show a definite trend in cosmic ray flux, more than doubling from ground level to an altitude of approximately 9000 feet. Right on Victor Hess!

Last Updated: May 5, 2016 5:19 PM

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