School may not be in session, but the upcoming August eclipse means that several Academy students are taking part in an experiment to measure any changes in cosmic ray activity during the total solar eclipse on August 21. The experiment is a collaboration with many schools across the globe and is being coordinated by the Quarknet group. From August 16 until the eclipse on August 21, Academy students, along with physics teacher Mr. Sears will be at Jefferson College, in Hillsboro, Missouri collecting data. The location is in the path of the total eclipse.

Mr. Sears explains:

We are detecting the cosmic rays by using muon counters constructed by Academy students over 10 years ago at another Quarknet workshop. A muon is a fundamental particle that is created when a cosmic ray collides with the Earth’s atmosphere. It has all the properties of an electron, but is about 200 times more massive. Because they are traveling at nearly the speed of light, time dilation keeps them from decaying until they reach the surface of the Earth where our detectors count them. We have built a telescope using these muon counters to measure muons around the region of the sky where the eclipse is happening. Academy students have been taking background and proof-of-concept measurements for months, which have been important in getting the experiment to where it is now. Our students are currently working on putting together a paper explaining their work with measuring muon flux rate versus various overlap schemes of muon counters.

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