College to catch cosmic rays

20th October 2000 at 01:00
IT'S star date 2000 and students in Preston are on their way to the final frontier.

Things are looking up for enterprising physics teacher Peter Dunne, whose students will investigate bombardments from outer space which rain down on the town. Captain Kirk's phaser won't be needed. The invasion is not by Klingons, but cosmic rays.

Preston College has been awarded pound;4,450 by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council to monitor cosmic ray showers, and especially to record mysterious high-energy rays.

It is planned that two ray detectors will be built on the roof of the college. Nearby Archbishop Temple igh School and Corpus Christi High School will also have two detectors each of their own.

The research is being carried out with advice from Professor Alan Wilson, head of the physics department at Leeds University.

"When all the detectors pick up muons (broken-down cosmic rays) at the same time, we know we have a cosmic ray shower. We won't be able to solve the question of where the high-energy particles come from. That's for professionals. We should be able to expand it to involve all Preston schools within a decade."

He stresses that cosmic rays are harmless, and they don't just fall on Preston.

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