JHU Abstract 2014-Searching for the Origins of Cosmic Rays

Searching for the Origins of Cosmic Rays


Anthony Fedorchak (Marriotts Ridge High School), Jeremy Smith (Hereford High School), Tyler Bradley (Towson High School), Dr. Morris Swartz (Johns Hopkins University)


The purpose of my research was to investigate the currently accepted source of cosmic rays, and then to branch out and make predictions as to other possible sources of cosmic rays based on the characteristics of the identified source. My research was primarily focused around a scientific journal published in early 2013 that pertained to data taken from the Fermi telescope, NASA’s telescope that is focused on analyzing high energy sources in space. This publication contained information about the processes used to identify Supernovae Remnants, namely IC 443 and W44, as sources of cosmic rays. After accessing this, I analyzed the energy levels of output of Pulsars, Active Galactic Nuclei, and the Sun, in order to try and hypothesize possible additional sources of cosmic rays, since all 3 of these bodies contain characteristics similar to Supernovae Remnants. Gamma ray energy levels were used to identify Supernovae Remnants as sources of cosmic rays through looking at the gamma rays born from a very specific type of neutral-pion decay, a type of decay specific to cosmic ray collisions. I then found interest in the effects that cosmic rays have here on Earth. I found information attributing 15% of the yearly exposure of radiation to cosmic rays, and also found that one end result of cosmic ray collisions within Earth’s atmosphere is the production of Carbon 14, which is central to the process of carbon dating. I continued my research, looking into the effects that cosmic rays can have on electrical equipment on, or in orbit around, Earth. I’ll continue looking into other effects that cosmic rays have here on Earth, and try to obtain a deeper understanding of the processes that generate these cosmic rays.