August 11, 2017 by Francis Reddy From its new vantage point on the International Space Station's Japanese Experiment Module - Exposed Facility, the Cosmic Ray Energetics and Mass (ISS-CREAM) mission, shown in the inset illustration, will study cosmic rays to determine their sources and acceleration mechanisms. Credit: NASA
A new experiment set for an Aug. 14 launch to the International Space Station will provide an unprecedented look at a rain of particles from deep space, called cosmic rays, that constantly showers our planet. The Cosmic Ray Energetics And Mass mission destined for the International Space Station (ISS-CREAM) is designed to measure the highest-energy particles of any detector yet flown in space.
CREAM was originally developed as a part of NASA's Balloon Program, during which it returned measurements from around 120,000 feet in seven flights between 2004 and 2016.
"The CREAM balloon experiment achieved a total sky exposure of 191 days, a record for any balloon-borne astronomical experiment," said Eun-Suk Seo, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland in College Park and the experiment's principal investigator. "Operating on the space station will increase our exposure by over 10 times, taking us well beyond the traditional energy limits of direct measurements."
Sporting new instruments, as well as refurbished versions of detectors originally used on balloon flights over Antarctica, the refrigerator-sized, 1.4-ton (1,300 kilogram) ISS-CREAM experiment will be delivered to the space station as part of the 12th SpaceX commercial resupply service mission. Once there, ISS-CREAM will be moved to the Exposed Facility platform extending from Kibo, the Japanese Experiment Module.
From this orbital perch, ISS-CREAM is expected to study the "cosmic rain" for three yearstime needed to provide unparalleled direct measurements of rare high-energy cosmic rays.
At energies above about 1 billion electron volts, most cosmic rays come to us from beyond our solar system. Various lines of evidence, including observations from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, support the idea that shock waves from the expanding debris of stars that exploded as supernovas accelerate cosmic rays up to energies of 1,000 trillion electron volts (PeV). That's 10 million times the energy of medical proton beams used to treat cancer. ISS-CREAM data will allow scientists to examine how sources other than supernova remnants contribute to the population of cosmic rays.
Protons are the most common cosmic ray particles, but electrons, helium nuclei and the nuclei of heavier elements make up a small percentage. All are direct samples of matter from interstellar space. But because the particles are electrically charged, they interact with galactic magnetic fields, causing them to wander in their journey to Earth. This scrambles their paths and makes it impossible to trace cosmic ray particles back to their sources.
"An additional challenge is that the flux of particles striking any detector decreases steadily with higher energies," said ISS-CREAM co-investigator Jason Link, a researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "So to better explore higher energies, we either need a much bigger detector or much more observing time. Operating on the space station provides us with this extra time."
Large ground-based systems study cosmic rays at energies greater than 1 PeV by making Earth's atmosphere the detector. When a cosmic ray strikes the nucleus of a gas molecule in the atmosphere, both explode in a shower of subatomic shrapnel that triggers a wider cascade of particle collisions. Some of these secondary particles reach detectors on the ground, providing information scientists can use to infer the properties of the original cosmic ray.
These secondaries also produce an interfering background that limited the effectiveness of CREAM's balloon operations. Removing that background is another advantage of relocating to orbit.
With decreasing numbers of particles at increasing energies, the cosmic ray spectrum vaguely resembles the profile of a human leg. At PeV energies, this decline abruptly steepens, forming a detail scientists call the "knee." ISS-CREAM is the first space mission capable of measuring the low flux of cosmic rays at energies approaching the knee.
"The origin of the knee and other features remain longstanding mysteries," Seo said. "Many scenarios have been proposed to explain them, but we don't know which is correct."
Astronomers don't think supernova remnants are capable of powering cosmic rays beyond the PeV range, so the knee may be shaped in part by the drop-off of their cosmic rays in this region.
"High-energy cosmic rays carry a great deal of information about our interstellar neighborhood and our galaxy, but we haven't been able to read these messages very clearly," said co-investigator John Mitchell at Goddard. "ISS-CREAM represents one significant step in this direction."
ISS-CREAM detects cosmic ray particles when they slam into the matter making up its instruments. First, a silicon charge detector measures the electrical charge of incoming particles, then layers of carbon provide targets that encourage impacts, producing cascades of particles that stream into electrical and optical detectors below while a calorimeter determines their energy. Two scintillator-based detector systems provide the ability to discern between singly charged electrons and protons. All told, ISS-CREAM can distinguish electrons, protons and atomic nuclei as massive as iron as they crash through the instruments.
ISS-CREAM will join two other cosmic ray experiments already working on the space station. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02), led by an international collaboration sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, is mapping cosmic rays up to a trillion electron volts, and the Japan-led Calorimetric Electron Telescope (CALET), also located on the Kibo Exposed Facility, is dedicated to studying cosmic ray electrons.
Overall management of ISS-CREAM and integration for its space station application was provided by NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore. ISS-CREAM was developed as part of an international collaboration led by the University of Maryland at College Park, which includes teams from NASA Goddard, Penn State University in University Park, Pennsylvania, and Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, as well as collaborating institutions in the Republic of Korea, Mexico and France.
Explore further: NASA's scientific balloon program reaches new heights
For decades, NASA has released enormous scientific balloons into Earth's atmosphere, miles above the altitude of commercial flights. The Balloon Program is currently preparing new missions bearing sensitive instruments, including ...
A combined analysis of data from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.), a ground-based observatory in Namibia, suggests the center of our Milky Way contains a "trap" that ...
The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft is targeted for launch August 14 from Kennedy Space Center for its twelfth commercial resupply (CRS-12) mission to the International Space Station.
(PhysOrg.com) -- In May a University of Maryland-led team of scientists reported some previously unknown features in the energy spectra of cosmic ray nuclei, which have been studied for almost 100 years. Cosmic rays were ...
Working in the harsh conditions of Antarctica, Maryland researchers are creating new ways of detecting cosmic rays, high energy particles that bombard the Earth from beyond our solar system.
Roughly once a year, the smallest Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiment, LHC-forward (LHCf), is taken out of its dedicated storage on the site near the ATLAS experiment, reinstalled in the LHC tunnel, and put to use investigating ...
On Sept. 30, 2014, multiple NASA observatories watched what appeared to be the beginnings of a solar eruption. A filamenta serpentine structure consisting of dense solar material and often associated with solar eruptionsrose ...
The world's smallest space probe, conceived at Menlo Park's visionary Breakthrough Starshot, has phoned home.
A new experiment set for an Aug. 14 launch to the International Space Station will provide an unprecedented look at a rain of particles from deep space, called cosmic rays, that constantly showers our planet. The Cosmic Ray ...
The universe is incomprehensibly vast, with billions of other planets circling billions of other stars. The potential for intelligent life to exist somewhere out there should be enormous.
Scientists have helped solve the mystery of what lies beneath the surface of Neptune the most distant planet in our solar system. A new study sheds light on the chemical make-up of the planet, which lies around 4.5 billion ...
In 1887, American astronomer Lewis Swift discovered a glowing cloud, or nebula, that turned out to be a small galaxy about 2.2 billion light years from Earth. Today, it is known as the "starburst" galaxy IC 10, referring ...
Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more
- The ISS Is Getting An Extension - Which Might Detach And Form Its Own Commercial Space Station - Forbes - January 29th, 2020
- NASA clears Axiom Space to put commercial habitat on space station, with Boeing on the team - GeekWire - January 29th, 2020
- Nasa to add hotel capsule to International Space Station as part of commercial plans - The Independent - January 29th, 2020
- Take a tour of the space station from the comfort of your own sofa - Digital Trends - January 29th, 2020
- SCORPIO-V's Mobile SpaceLab to Study Human Biology on International Space Station (ISS) - Business Wire - January 29th, 2020
- NASA Ropes In Axiom Space To Develop Habitable Space Station - Gizbot - January 29th, 2020
- Bartolomeo Starts Its Journey to the International Space Station - I-Connect007 - January 29th, 2020
- The death of the Challenger and the birth of commercial space | TheHill - The Hill - January 29th, 2020
- Mich. native craves salsa and surf after record 11 months in space - The Detroit News - January 29th, 2020
- SpaceX is launching 60 more Starlink satellites Wednesday. Here's how to watch live. - Space.com - January 29th, 2020
- Which Fallout 76 Faction Is Cooler, The Crashed Space Station Or The Log Cabin? - Kotaku Australia - January 29th, 2020
- Spacewalking astronauts are upgrading the space station today. Here's how to watch it live. - Space.com - January 26th, 2020
- International Space Station to Pass Within View Wednesday Evening - UVA Today - January 26th, 2020
- A Lego International Space Station kit is on the way - Autoblog - January 26th, 2020
- Houston, we have a bake-off! We finally know what happens when you bake cookies in space - Space.com - January 26th, 2020
- XinaBox, Quest for Space To Send Experiments To The International Space Station - Space in Africa - January 26th, 2020
- ESA, Airbus join forces on the Space Station - Spatial Source - January 26th, 2020
- How SpaceX and Boeing became NASA's best shot to revive US spaceflight - Business Insider - January 26th, 2020
- French agency CNES to aid ISROs space station project - The New Indian Express - January 26th, 2020
- NASA astronauts to fly SpaceX Crew Dragon in spring how they prepare - INSIDER - January 26th, 2020
- LEGO Ideas 21321 International Space Station exclusive patch on the way - Brick Fanatics - January 26th, 2020
- El Paso scientists team up for heart research project at the International Space Station - KVIA El Paso - January 26th, 2020
- Which Fallout 76 Faction Is Cooler, The Crashed Space Station Or The Log Cabin? - Kotaku - January 26th, 2020
- Gaganyaan, space station will pave way for continuous Indian presence in space: ISRO chief - The Hindu - January 26th, 2020
- Second all-female spacewalk devoted to space station battery replacements - CBS News - January 18th, 2020
- Mighty Mice In Space May Help Disabled People On Earth : Shots - Health News - NPR - January 18th, 2020
- SpaceX Test Delayed to Sunday - The New York Times - January 18th, 2020
- Ask our Astronaut | What do astronauts living at the International Space Station fear most? - Euronews - January 18th, 2020
- In photos: The amazing spacewalks of Expedition 61 - Space.com - January 18th, 2020
- How to shield the space program from changing political winds - Politico - January 18th, 2020
- Florida governor announces expansion of space manufacturing company in Jacksonville - The Florida Times-Union - January 18th, 2020
- Space Junk Is Cluttering Up The Final Frontier - NPR - January 18th, 2020
- Australia fires from space: Astronauts send out 'hearts and thoughts' from Space Station - Express.co.uk - January 18th, 2020
- Astronauts and addiction: Ending the stigma (op-ed) - Space.com - January 18th, 2020
- Wine in space? Yep, that's a thing - Standard-Times - January 18th, 2020
- AEHF satellite arrives in Florida for first of nearly 20 Space Force launches this year - Spaceflight Now - January 18th, 2020
- ISRO Is About To Make India Proud Again With India's First Orbital Space Station By 2022 - ScoopWhoop - January 18th, 2020
- Watch out for these space missions in 2020 - Livemint - January 18th, 2020
- How to Watch Boeing's 1st Starliner Test Flight to the Space Station Online - Space.com - December 18th, 2019
- Cool New Hardware Welcomed Aboard Space Station Heres What They Got - SciTechDaily - December 18th, 2019
- SpaceX's Next Space Station Delivery Includes a Stash of Cannabis - ScienceAlert - December 18th, 2019
- NASA gives go-ahead for Starliner test flight to space station - Spaceflight Now - December 18th, 2019
- See what the path of Dallas' EF-3 tornado looks like from space - The Dallas Morning News - December 18th, 2019
- Rosie, a Bandana-Clad Test Dummy, Will Be the First to Fly on Boeing's Starliner - Space.com - December 18th, 2019
- First Map of a Pulsar's Surface Reveals 'Hotspots' in Unexpected Places - Space.com - December 18th, 2019
- Seeing beyond the horizon of a space-warping pulsar - Astronomy Now Online - December 18th, 2019
- 321 Launch: Space news you may have missed over the past week - Florida Today - December 18th, 2019
- VIDEO: Eagle feather from BC flew to space with Canadian astronaut - Surrey Now-Leader - December 18th, 2019
- Top 20 games of 2019 | Games - The Guardian - December 18th, 2019
- Star Wars: The Mandalorian episode 6 review: What we learned about instant certainty - Deseret News - December 18th, 2019
- Boeing Shows Off 1st Starliner Destined to Carry Crew to Space - Space.com - December 13th, 2019
- Data from the International Space Station confirms: Lightning is insane - Ars Technica - December 13th, 2019
- Weed and coffee are finally going to space - Mashable - December 13th, 2019
- Astronaut assistant Cimon-2 travels to International Space Station - Robotics and Automation News - December 13th, 2019
- Friday view of the space station - kwwl.com - December 13th, 2019
- Photo of the day: Brightly-lit Bucharest photographed at night from the International Space Station - Romania-Insider.com - December 13th, 2019
- Space mice and robotic avatars headed for the International Space Station - The Star Online - December 13th, 2019
- Experiment from Ballenas students heads to International Space Station - Nanaimo News Bulletin - December 13th, 2019
- Watch: Maine astronaut's Thanksgiving challenge on space station don't let the turkey get away - Press Herald - November 30th, 2019
- China's Big Ambitions for Space Are Riding on a December Launch - Space.com - November 30th, 2019
- Seeking the Killer Space App with Space Tango - The Planetary Society - November 30th, 2019
- adidas Link Up with the International Space Station to Launch The UltraBOOST 20 Model - Versus - November 30th, 2019
- There are now two AI-powered robot bees flying around the space station - BGR - November 30th, 2019
- Watch Boeing's Starliner Meet Its Rocket for the 1st Time in This Awesome Drone Video - Space.com - November 30th, 2019
- Be thankful youre not an ISS astronaut, because this is how they celebrate Thanksgiving - BGR - November 30th, 2019
- Space Station Spikers land third straight championship | Win Or Lose - Theredstonerocket - November 30th, 2019
- Lego Sent a Lego Space Station Into the Stratosphere - Gizmodo UK - November 30th, 2019
- Slog AM: Americans Are Dying Younger, Crazy Thanksgiving-Week Weather, All Toilets Broken on International Space Station - TheStranger.com - November 30th, 2019
- SpaceX Falcon 9 rideshare will test the tools needed to build space stations in orbit - Teslarati - November 30th, 2019
- Russia Should Fear What France Will Do to Protect Its Satellites - The National Interest Online - November 30th, 2019
- NASA terrified it could be shut out from the International Space Station next year - Express.co.uk - November 17th, 2019
- Spacewalk today: Astronauts at International Space Station take on one of the most complex spacewalks ever - CBS News - November 17th, 2019
- Life on the Space Station is about to get really weird and lonely - Wired.co.uk - November 17th, 2019
- 'Get back to the moon and forget the orbiting space station' - Politico - November 17th, 2019
- The story behind the first batch of cookies in space and the first zero-gravity oven - CNN - November 17th, 2019
- You could be booking an Earth-view room at the Von Braun Space Station by 2025 - SYFY WIRE - November 17th, 2019
- Astronauts Will Take 4 of the Most Challenging Spacewalks Ever to Fix a Dark Matter Experiment - Space.com - November 17th, 2019
- Mankato native designed patch for upcoming NASA mission to the International Space Station - Mankato Free Press - November 17th, 2019
- Korea's first and only astronaut shares her story in Stanwood - The Daily Herald - November 17th, 2019
- Wine cellar in space: 12 bottles arrive for year of aging - Tuscaloosa News - November 17th, 2019