Your phone has some pretty astronomical features

6.11.2014 Benjamin Gubler


Cosmic rays are incessantly striking our planet and radioactive particles come from supernovae and other more mysterious sources to flood our Earth. They interact with our atmosphere and by the time they reach humans, they become imperceptible, unnoticeable and not really something to think about.



Just because they are unnoticeable, it doesn’t mean they are not there and we don’t think and care about them though. The $2 billion cosmic ray detector on the International Space Station is proof of that and lower tech methods have enabled us to keep track of them for centuries now. Last month, a Wisconsin University scientist announced that we can use our mobile phones to track these cosmic rays, how very peculiar.



Justin Vandenbroucke, a researcher at IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center along with his team has designed an app that pulls data from handset camera chips to pinpoint those secondary particles created by cosmic rays after they have punctured our planet.



Silicon is the main ingredient in smart phone camera chips and when these radioactive particles come in contact with it they let off an electric charge. The app spots this charge and analyzes the data that is produced. The app is very user friendly and only requires users to put a piece of duct tape over their phone’s camera lens and then place the phone on its back.



Vandenbroucke said that the apps basically transform the phone into a high-energy particle detector and it uses the same principles as these very large experiments.



The app is an educational tool and will most likely be used solely for that purpose. More powerful detectors can be employed to analyze and capture more powerful rays. But for those of us who can’t fathom taking part in any operations regarding cosmic rays and other cool astronomical projects like the ISS, this app would be a cool one not to miss.


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