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These energies span the range of medical X-ray machines and airport security scanners.The data points in the graph above correspond to the peak of the Reneger-Pfotzer maximum, which lies about 67,000 feet above central California.When cosmic rays crash into Earth's atmosphere, they produce a spray of secondary particles that is most intense at the entrance to the stratosphere.Physicists Eric Reneger and Georg Pfotzer discovered the maximum using balloons in the 1930s and it is what we are measuring today.During Solar Maximum, CMEs are abundant and cosmic rays are held at bay.Now, however, the solar cycle is swinging toward Solar Minimum, allowing cosmic rays to return.
The students are selling these balls as a fundraiser for their cosmic ray ballooning. We also have "space balls" for the Red Sox, Angels, Dodgers, Giants, and Padres. If your home team is not on the list, let us know and we will fly it for you on an upcoming flight.
They are the electric-blue puffs circled in this image of the Arctic taken by AIM's CIPS instrument on May 27th: "The summer season for noctilucent clouds has begun," says Cora Randall, AIM science team member at the University of Colorado.
"We spotted the first hint of NLCs in our data on May 23rd; now they are brightening rapidly." NLCs are Earth's highest clouds.
These balloons are equipped with radiation sensors that detect cosmic rays, a surprisingly "down to Earth" form of space weather.
Cosmic rays can seed clouds, trigger lightning, and penetrate commercial airplanes.