Wales gets its first network of cosmic ray detectors

Scientists have installed a network of technologies to detect showers of high-energy particles raining down on Earth for the very first time in South Wales.

These particles, which are called cosmic rays, travel at nearly the speed of sound and originate from black holes and exploding stars. They’ve been around since the solar system formed.

By detecting and researching cosmic rays, scientists can better understand the origin of the universe, the death of stars, and how galaxies and black holes form.

The network’s first detector has been installed on the roof of Cardiff University’s school of physics and astronomy, which is located near the city centre.

And experts are currently building a second detector at Swansea University. There are also plans to build a third one at the Oriel Science exhibition centre in the Swansea city centre.

As well as these detectors, the team is also looking at the possibility of building one at a Welsh school in a bid to transform the way schoolchildren learn about space.

The £93,000 project, named QuarkNet Cymru, is being funded by the Welsh Government’s National Science Academy. It’s also being supported by the “High School Project on Astrophysics Research with Cosmics” (HiSPARC) in Europe, and US-based “QuarkNet” programme.

Project lead Dr Paul Roche, from Cardiff University’s school of physics and astronomy, said these cosmic ray detectors will improve science education throughout Wales.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for school students from across Wales to get involved with some exciting astrophysics, using data taken from our own instruments that are now part of this international research programme,” he said.

Prof Chris Allton, from Swansea University’s Oriel Science and department of physics, said: “We are excited to link with Cardiff and provide a detector array across south Wales for school students to access. It will really help inspire these students to become the next generation of scientists in Wales.”

Ken Skates, cabinet Secretary for economy and transport, added:  “The QuarkNet Cymru project is an excellent example of how Welsh Government investment is helping facilitate truly innovative research into some of the most important questions in astrophysics.

“More locally, it’s particularly pleasing to see such investment enabling QuarkNet Cymru and its network to deliver engaging science, technology, engineering and mathematics activities to pupils across Wales.”

Image credit: leaf watoru