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Fermilab | Batavia, IL | USA

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Cosmic ray detector weathers sea mount survey and storms


Editor’s note: Bob’s most excellent particle detector adventure, part 8.

Bob Peterson continues to travel with his QuarkNet particle detector around the edge of Africa recording remnants of cosmic rays. This offers a chance to study how cosmic ray recordings differ on land and sea and at different latitudes. The data will be accessible to high school students and teachers in several countries who use similar detectors to learn about particle physics.

Read his previous posts here: The voyage begins, Turning the detector on, Other science on the sea, Particle detectors don’t like light, Enduring a branding for science A teaching moment on the ocean, Using ballons to study the sky to help IceCube and QuarkNet.

14 May 2011
R/V Polarstern
Latitude: 40-22.8 N
Longitude: 11-22.4 W
off the Portugal coast
Ship course 009° T
Ship velocity 7 knots

12 May:
The Polarstern plans a stop in the middle of nowhere for 24 hours. The ship is conducting a bottom survey using new echo-sounding hardware and new software to “paint the picture”. The scientists have chosen a sea mount that rises from 5,000 meter, or 3 mile, depth to 57 meter, or a little more than one-quarter of a mile. There’s a damn big mountain out here. Funny, the top looks just the same: flat with few waves. The ship will run a survey course that looks like a search and rescue pattern; back and forth runs the ship across the sea mount. Frustrating to those sunning on deck; they have to keep switching sides.

Clearly, the fishermen know about the rise. They are out here in numbers setting their nets.

By the way, several birds have hitched a ride. They try to escape, but don’t go far before returning. How did they get here if there is nowhere to go?

14 May:
Just as Max, the weather forecaster predicted the Force 8 gale arrived in the middle of the night. That meant winds of 39 to 45 mph and moderate waves with lots of spray. Good. I wanted a good Atlantic Ocean storm before the
voyage was over; I got a doosey.

Looking out the weather-office window, I stand 55 feet off the water. Spray passes me by and the waves look, oh,
20 to 25 feet tall. It’s blowin’ 40 knots and Max thinks it will increase to 45-50 knots. I haven’t seen this in 30 years. The ship is literally “pounding into the teeth of it”. Hmmmm, where is everyone for breakfast? I’m doing fine after three weeks to acclimate to the rolling boat.

Overnight I seized on extra lashings for the cosmic ray muon detector (CRMD) to keep the hardware on the table, and it continues to count those cosmic rays. The muons don’t seem to have retreated to their bunks. My mantra is “take that data”. Though typpimtntg is a bit difgucilt. This blog installment will be short.

Maybe, I will go to my bunk after all.

*Knot: A nautical term for miles per hour.10 knots equals12 mph.

–Bob Peterson


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