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Islington students build cosmic ray detector and celebrate award-winning air pollution project

PUBLISHED: 16:06 16 January 2020 | UPDATED: 16:23 16 January 2020

Installing the sonic wave detector on the roof of the Institute of Physics. Picture: Institute of Physics

Installing the sonic wave detector on the roof of the Institute of Physics. Picture: Institute of Physics

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City and Islington College students became the fist pupils in London to build a cosmic ray detector, before embarking on an award-winning air pollution project.

Toma Kolen, Merian Alit and  Dimona Videnlieva helped build a sonic ray detector. Picture: Lucas CumiskeyToma Kolen, Merian Alit and Dimona Videnlieva helped build a sonic ray detector. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey

City and Islington College students became the fist pupils in London to build a cosmic ray detector, before embarking on an award-winning air pollution project.

Does pollution affect cosmic rays?

Sixth form students were awarded gold for their research into this question at the High School Project on Astrophysics with Cosmics (HiSPARC) conference at Sussex University.

Pupils then presented their findings at Institute of Physics' HQ in Caledonian Road on Tuesday, January 14.

Cosmic rays are high energy particles which travel from space - from stars, from supernovae explosions of stars and from other sources currently unknown to us - to the outer layer of the Earth's atmosphere. They are high energy particles which do not reach ground level because they collide with air molecules high up in the atmosphere.

These collisions create a shower of lower energy, sub-atomic particles, some of which can be detected from the ground.

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City and Islington College brought a HiSPARC detector and students, including Dimona Videnlieva, Merian Alit and Toma Kolev, all 19, built it.

Toma told the Gazette: "Basically, particles come from outer space and they are travelling really fast, and some straight into the earth's atmosphere, they have lots of energy. Because the earth's atmosphere at some point gets dense enough they smash [into air molecules].

Merian added: "London has been through things like the great smog, so this was a big problem in the past. We thought, because London is a big metropolitan city it has to be polluted, we assumed these particles would interact with particles coming down."

Dimona added: "We found that when pollution increases, the amount of neurons decrease, so it's a weak negative correlation. So the more polluted a city is the less particles detected."

The research project last about six months but the detector only took an afternoon to build.

Dimona added: "The project showed me research is something I definitely wanted to do because it was fun working on it."

Merian added: "I really enjoyed working in the team. Because we were a small group it helped and we became friends."

All the HiSPARC detectors are connected to a central computer at the scientific institute Nikhef in Amsterdam through the internet, forming a large network.


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