Washington, Dec 7 (PTI) Scientists from NASA in Antarctica will launch an aerostatic instrument to collect information about cosmic rays, high-energy particles from outside the solar system that enter the earth's atmosphere every day.
The instrument, called Super Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder (SuperTIGER), is designed to study rare heavy cores, which contain clues about where and how cosmic rays reach speeds near the speed of light.
It will be launched on December 10. In 2013, the SuperTIGER broke records of flight duration when flying over Antarctica.
"The previous SuperTIGER flight lasted 55 days, setting a record for the longest flight of any scientific heavy-lift balloon," said Robert Binns, a senior researcher at the University of Washington in the United States, who heads the mission.
"The time in height translated into a long exposure, which is important because the particles were after forming only a small fraction of the cosmic rays," said Binns.
The most common cosmic ray particles are protons or hydrogen nuclei, which account for about 90 percent, followed by the nuclei of helium (eight percent) and electrons (one percent).
The rest contains the nuclei of other elements, with a decreasing number of heavy nuclei as their mass increases.
With SuperTIGER, researchers are looking for the weirdest of strange extra-heavy cosmic ray nuclei beyond iron, from cobalt to barium.
"Heavy elements, like gold in their jewelry, are produced through special processes in stars, and SuperTIGER aims to help us understand how and where this happens," said John Mitchell at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center at USA UU
"They were all stardust, but figuring out where and how this star dust is made helps us better understand our galaxy and our place in it," Mitchell said.
When a cosmic ray hits the core of an atmospheric gas molecule, both explode in a subatomic shrapnel rain that triggers a cascade of particle collisions.
Some of these secondary particles reach the detectors in the ground, providing information that scientists can use to infer the properties of the original cosmic ray.
However, they also produce an interfering background that is greatly reduced by flying instruments in scientific balloons, which reach altitudes of almost 40,000 meters and float above 99.5 percent of the atmosphere.
The most massive stars fragment elements to iron in their nuclei and then explode as supernovae, dispersing the material in space.
Explosions also create conditions that result in a brief and intense flood of subatomic particles called neutrons. Many of these neutrons can "stick" to the iron nuclei.
Some of them subsequently decompose into protons, producing new elements heavier than iron.
Supernova explosion waves provide the impulse that converts these particles into high-energy cosmic rays. As a shock wave expands in space, it traps and accelerates the particles until they reach energies so extreme that they can no longer be contained.
Over the past two decades, accumulated evidence from NASA's Advanced Composition Explorer detectors and the predecessor of SuperTIGERs, the balloon-borne TIGER instrument, has allowed scientists to get a general idea of the sources of lightning Cosmic
Approximately 20 percent of cosmic rays are thought to arise from massive stars and supernova remnants, while 80 percent come from interstellar dust and gas with chemical quantities similar to those found in the solar system . PTI MHN SAR MHN