Feeds

Rainy day? Blame cosmic rays

Particle accelerators show us how

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Scientists have speculated for some time that cosmic rays could have an effect on the weather, and now the experiment designed to test the idea has begun collecting data.

The CLOUD experiment (which contrives to be short for Cosmics Leaving OUtdoor Droplets) kicked off on Thursday last week, with a prototype detector in a particle beam at CERN. It is, you will be surprised to hear, the first time a particle detector has been used to investigate the links between space and Earth weather.

The experiment is designed to probe the tiny interactions between the clouds and cosmic rays. The working hypothesis is that cosmic rays can create seed particles, tiny aerosols around which cloud droplets form. This in turn can increase cloud cover, which is tremendously significant in determining our climate. Very small variations in the amount of cloud cover can make a big difference to the planet's energy balance.

So, scientists from a range of disciplines, including experts on cloud and solar physics, plan to send a high energy beam representing the cosmic rays into a closely monitored reaction chamber.

The chamber is filled with pure "air", evaporated oxygen and nitrogen produced by a gas system designed by CERN engineers. The scientists say it will be the cleanest air anywhere in the world, and therefore free of many of the other aerosols that are present in the atmosphere.

The beam's effect on aerosol production will be measured and analysed, and the first results are expected in the summer of 2007.

The full experiment will involve an advanced cloud chamber and reaction chamber capable of reproducing the temperature and pressure conditions anywhere in the atmosphere. The chambers will also be equipped with an array of instruments to detect the tiniest details of the physical interactions taking place. ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.