Are Ultra High Cosmic Energy Rays Dangerous?

Ultra High Cosmic Rays

via Wikimedia Commons

Ultra High Cosmic Rays

Over 400 scientists from 18 different countries are working at Pierre Auger Collaboration to solve the mysteries of these ultra-high cosmic energy rays. Scientists built Auger to find out why and how these rays are coming to Earth. These rays contain some very rare ultra-energetic atomic nuclei (the positively charged central core of an atom). Ultra high rays are charged particles that have been launched into spaces by some source of energy. Scientists at  Pierre Auger Collaboration have collected 12 years of data by using particle detectors to try and find this source.

An ultra-high cosmic energy ray is so rare that only around 20 of them hit in a range of 3 years. When these special rays hit the Earth’s atmosphere they create showers of electrons, photons, and muons (an unstable particle) almost as fast as the speed of light.  The highest energy rays are millions of times more energetic than any man-made particle accelerators. In some cases, a single atomic nucleus is as powerful as a large hailstone falling on your head. However, physicists still don’t know what sorts of astrophysical objects accelerate the particles to such tremendous speeds. Scientists predict some galaxies have an explosive and massive black hole in the center of them and that these centers accelerate particles and launched at such a violent speed that they eventually hit the Earth’s atmosphere – causing ultra high cosmic rays.

Scientists can’t find the exact source of the rare rays because these rays are charged particles, so they get deflected when hitting Earth’s magnetic field. When the particle hits the magnetic field, the particles make a kind of air shower which is like an avalanche of particles. When the particles fall, the ones that penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere are measured by the particle detectors. The particle avalanches can also cause nitrogen molecules in the air to fluorescence (visible radiation of a certain substance) so special telescopes can see the color. Since the particles that are deflected are just floating in space, it is hard to find the origin of these rays, but we can tell that most rays that hit Earth come from a direction pointing away from our galaxy. With this information, scientists conclude that the ultra high rays come from outside the milky way. The particles that are detected are really energetic and can be violent. These rays only come once a year in an area of 1 square kilometer and barely any particles breach the Earth’s atmosphere. So don’t be worried about these special rays, they are completely harmless and look astonishing.