Article | Cosmic Radiation

Proving the altitude effect

6 July 2020 — Gabriel Stevens

The mission of the Astrophysics Lab of the entreprise LEM.SCIENCE is to investigate the fluctuation of cosmic rays and cosmic radiation. Many of our projects involve experiments to investigate the variation of cosmic rays depending on some factors which may alter the quantity coming through. One of the projects this year consisted of proving that the altitude of the detector influences the number of cosmic rays hitting it.

Pictured above is the summit of the mountain Charmant Som, near Grenoble in France where the measurements were performed. Photo: Office du Tourisme Grenoble

The research that we did prior to performing the measurements told us that the number of cosmic rays would go down as the altitude of the detector went down with it. This was our hypothesis before performing the experiment. The experiment itself was relatively simple, during the summer a group of students went on a trip with the “Summer School” to the south of France. The summer school team trekked to a nearby mountain in the area of Grenoble in France, where they performed several different sets of measurements at different altitudes to obtain the most promising data†.

The data was then transferred directly to the astrophysics team where we started formatting the collected data. Once it was properly formatted we began analysing it alongside the researched theory, with this done we began interpreting the data and drawing the most logical conclusions. In the end this was not too difficult as the results were pretty clear leaving no room for any doubt.

Our conclusion was that the altitude did affect the cosmic muon flux, as well as the fact that the number of cosmic muons did go down with the altitude, thus proving our hypothesis and keeping in line with what our researched theory suggested. This was another big success for the astrophysics team, a fully detailed paper on the altitude was created and will be published in 2020. Graphical representations of our work are included in the paper.

Here is the graph we created clearly showing the rise in cosmic muons detected along with the rise of the altitude. The four main dots in the graph represent the different altitudes we used our detector, with the average muon count per minute written on top. A clear upwards trend between the dots is visible as the altitude climes. In total a 43% increase can be found between the lowest and the highest measurements.

† Measurements were performed on the 16th of July 2019

Author(s): Gabriel Stevens
Editor: Andrea Grana
Team(s): Astrophysics Lab