Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2018 August 6
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Live: Cosmic Rays from Minnesota
Image Credit: Fermilab, NuMI, NOvA Collaboration

Explanation: Cosmic rays from outer space go through your body every second. Typically, they do you no harm. The featured image shows some of these fast moving particles as streaks going through Fermilab's NOvA Far Detector located in Ash River, Minnesota, USA. Although the image updates every 15 seconds, it only shows cosmic rays that occurred over a (changing) small fraction of that time, and mostly shows only one type of particle: muons. The NOvA Far Detector's main purpose is not to detect cosmic rays, though, but rather neutrinos from the NuMI beam shot through the Earth from Fermilab near Chicago, Illinois, USA, 810 kilometers away. Only a few neutrino events are expected in NOvA per week, though. The NuMI / NOvA experiment is allowing humanity to better explore the nature of neutrinos, for example how frequently they change type during their trip. Cosmic rays themselves were discovered only about 100 years ago and can not only alter computer memory, but may have helped to create DNA mutations that resulted in, eventually, humans.

Tomorrow's picture: eclipsed

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
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