From the cosmos to the classroom

From the cosmos to the classroom

From the cosmos to the classroom

Citizen Science: From the Cosmos to the Classroom

Simulation of a very high-energy shower (1017 eV) hits the city of Bologna perpendicularly and generates 1 million secondary muons on the ground shown as red dots. Credit: The European Physical Journal Plus (2022). DOI: 10.1140/epjp/s13360-022-03331-0

Citizen science projects offer the general public or parts of this public, such as schoolchildren, the opportunity to participate in scientific research. The Extreme Energy Events (EEE) project in Italy is a collaboration between particle physicists who study cosmic rays and students and their teachers across the country.

This has the twin goals of bringing cosmic ray research into schools and establishing a nationwide “open laboratory” of particle detectors. One of the lead researchers of the EEE project consortium, Silvia Pisano from Italy’s Centro Fermi and Laboratori Nazionali di Frascati from INFN, Rome, Italy, has summarized the results from around 20 years of this project in a new article The European Physical Journal Plus .

Cosmic rays are high-energy particles that travel through space at nearly the speed of light; when they come into contact with the earth’s atmosphere, they produce a multitude of secondary particles that can be detected when they reach the ground. A primary cosmic ray can produce a shower of such particles that completely covers a city the size of, say, Bologna. “There are still many unanswered questions about these secondary particles, such as the full details of their energy spectra,” explains Pisano.

The EEE network consists of about 60 detectors or “EEE telescopes” located throughout Italy, mostly in high schools. Students and their teachers are involved in all aspects of the project: equipment installation and maintenance, data collection and analysis, and dissemination of results. “The peculiarity of an experiment designed in this way is that it can look for correlations between events that are hundreds of kilometers apart,” adds Pisano. She and her staff are now planning to expand the network to other schools, including some outside of Italy.

Another ongoing development is the development of a gas mixture for the detectors to replace the powerful greenhouse gas tetrafluoroethane; Pupils are involved in this and other improvements. “This experiment provides a unique environment to educate future generations in the practice of science,” concludes Pisano.

More information:
Silvia Pisano et al., Project “Extreme Energy Events”, The European Physical Journal Plus (2022). DOI: 10.1140/epjp/s13360-022-03331-0

Citation: Citizen Science: From the Cosmos to the Classroom (2023, January 20), retrieved January 20, 2023 from

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