Bergman, Douglas R. Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Last reviewed:January 2019
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- Cosmic ray, published March 2018:Download PDF Get Adobe Acrobat Reader
- Cosmic rays, published June 2014:Download PDF Get Adobe Acrobat Reader
- Cosmic-ray detection
- Ionization of matter
- Air showers
- Relation to particle physics
- Composition of cosmic rays
- Origins of high-energy cosmic rays
- Location of sources
- Acceleration mechanisms
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
Charged, energetic particles, mostly hydrogen and helium nuclei, that travel at nearly the speed of light through space and bombard Earth from all directions. Cosmic rays are generated in astrophysical environments, ranging from the Sun locally to the cores of galaxies many billions of light-years away. When cosmic rays reach Earth, they shatter molecules in the atmosphere, triggering so-called air showers of secondary particles that can propagate all the way to the ground if the original cosmic ray is sufficiently energetic (Fig. 1). See also: Atmosphere; Atomic nucleus; Galaxy; Helium; Hydrogen; Light-year; Molecule; Sun
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