Cosmic radiation

The possibly most extraordinary example of the generation of particles is the cosmic radiation. These are protons (hydrogen nuclei) of cosmic origin from deep space, which enter the Earth's atmosphere with high energies as high as 108 - 1020 eV. These protons collide with nuclei of nitrogen or oxygen in the air at a height of about 20 kilometers. This collision generates a whole bunch of new secondary, tertiary, … etc. particles. A total energy of 1015 eV produces about one million (!) new particles, which are mostly photons, electrons and positrons as well as particles called muons.


A different effect is caused by the sun-wind. When a burst of charged particles emitted from our sun meets the Earth's atmosphere, they wind up along the lines of the Earth's magnetic field. At the (magnetic) poles the particles enter the Earth's atmosphere where the air molecules get ionized and emit a greenish violet light. This spectacle is called polar lights because it is mostly seen at high latitudes. A very strong sun-wind is able to "bend" the Earth's magnetic field in such a manner, that sometimes polar lights can be even seen in Berlin (at 52° northerly latitude). This effect on the Earth's magnetic field can lead to disturbance in wireless equipment, mobile telephones and energy supply as well as to disorientation of carrier pigeons.

Two Equations