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Cosmic Ray Activity
Spring 2010 - At Thornton Fractional North High School, Calumet City Illinois

This is a project about cosmic rays. What are they? How do they affect us? How are they affected?

Over a number of weeks, students will observe and measure the following items: barometric pressure, cosmic ray rate, cloud coverage, quality of a shortwave radio transmission and sunspots. This website has been set up to provide a location for each student to record his/her observations. At the end of the observation period, students will then examine their data and reach their own conclusions.

This project is being done as part of the NSF National Lab Day and is being carried out with help from the Department of High Energy Physics at The University of Chicago.


Questions of the Day

2. Go to http://www2.slac.stanford.edu/vvc/cosmicrays/crsun.htm and read the passage about Cosmic Rays and the Sun. What are the two types of cosmic rays? Why is the name "rays" a misnomer (not the correct name)? What composes the solar wind? Which Aurora would occur where your disaster happened?

3. What are the basic features of sunspots? What causes them? Why is monitoring sun activity important to humans?

4. Look at the "Example of a Scientific Logbook" handout and describe if this is what you do in your lab book. If not, how can you change it? Click the following link to investigate cosmic rays: Cosmic Ray Sites (Click on "Login as guest" to continue.) Use the "Cosmic Rays Sites" text box, and the general background links to explain in detail what is happening in the animation occurring on the SmartBoard!

5. First, state your hypothesis for the project. Second, does light have an effect on any of the variables in the experiment so far? Cite specific examples from your data. Third, discuss your team. What is everyone responsible for?

6. Some scientists argue that cosmic rays, not greenhouse gases, are the reason for climate change. What do you think? Look at the temperatures (from weather.com) and cosmic rays rates (from your records), and compare. Can you defend or refute this accusation?

7. Compare your data with data from one group in each of the other physics classes. Is their data similar to yours or different? What are some of the causes of different numbers and data? Tell which groups' data you used and explain the correlations and differences.

8. Look at your sun images from the past weeks. Identify sun spots, storms, etc., and then compare those images to the cosmic rays rates and radio transmissions. Choose a student from another class and compare your cosmic rays rates to his/hers. Does the sun image give any support to how often cosmic rays hit Earth?

9. Read this article: Science Article and read the passage about Cosmic Rays. What appears to be controlling our clouds? Based on this article, does it seem like cosmic rays depend on the clouds, or that the clouds depend on cosmic rays? Explain your answer.

10. Google "cosmic rays and sunlight." After reading some background on the combination of the two, are the two connected? Or are they completely unrelated? Do cosmic rays that hit Earth only come from our sun? Where else could they come from? Explain.

11. Besides yourself, choose two other people in the other physics classes, and compare their data to yours. Look at their graphs and data tables. Can you find any information to support your previous hypothesis? State your hypothesis again in your answer, and BE DETAILED in your explanation. (Cite where the data came from, who collected it, etc.)

12. Go to this webpage: NOAA Site and record the number of sunspots for every day you have collected data. Record the date of data collection and the number of sunspots (found under I, look how many lines are under NMBR). Is there a connection with the number of sunspots and the number of cosmic rays? Explain.

13. Go to this webpage: NOAA Site and record the number of sunspots for Wednesday. Record the date of data collection and the number of sunspots (found under I, look how many lines are under NMBR). Go to this webpage: NASA and search for solar explosion. Read about solar explosions. What is a solar explosion and how does it affect Earth? Also, give your opinion about what type of final project you would like to do to complete this project.

14. Go to this webpage: NOAA Site and record the number of sunspots for today. Record the date of data collection and the number of sunspots (found under I, look how many lines are under NMBR). Go to this webpage: Window to the Universe and read about cosmic rays. Give examples of the different types of cosmic rays and where in the universe they come from.

15. Go to this webpage: NOAA Site and record the number of sunspots for today. Go to this webpage: NASA and read about space weather. Why is studying space weather so important to humans? What are sunspots a sign of? What are the two types of solar storms? Chemically speaking, what causes the Auroras?

16. Go to this webpage: NOAA Site and record the number of sunspots for today. State your hypothesis in your QOTD Answer box. Look through your data and graphs and record any patterns you see. Read through the "Final Report Instructions", and read about the final report for our project.

17. Go to this webpage: NOAA Site and record the number of sunspots for today. Record sunspot # in QOTD box. Make a table in your lab book with the date, CR count, and sunspot count of all 16 days of data collection. Then work on your final reports.


Basic Procedure