Sep 3, 1996
Down-to-Earth Fiber Technology Yields Insight into Cosmic Rays
The Scintillating Optical Fiber Calorimeter (SOFCAL) uses fiber optic technology to allow scientists to measure energies and compositions of cosmic rays. The detector consists of ten pairs of 1/2 millimeter-square optical fibers, arranged in an x-y grid formation. When a cosmic ray interacts with the fibers onboard the experiment, they scintillate, or give off pulses of light. This light can then be collected and analyzed to learn about the cosmic ray that produced the light.
On this flight, which will begin from Ft. Sumner, New Mexico, scientists will be interested in cosmic rays that come in the form of both protons and helium nuclei. By investigating these particular components of the cosmic ray spectrum, scientists hope to gain greater insight into both the origins of cosmic rays and the mechanism that accelerates these particles to speeds approaching the speed of light.
For more information on SOFCAL, please contact
Mark J. Christl
Huntsville, Alabama 35812
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Author: Mark Christl
Curator: Bryan Walls
NASA Official: John M. Horack
Fiber Optic image used courtesy of Chi Tham, of California State University at Fullerton.
Balloon photo courtesy of Dr. Thomas Parnell/NASA Marshall.