Phenomena

Cloud Chambers

Cloud chambers were one of the first methods used to study radioactive decay and cosmic particles. Such chambers are filled with a cool, supersaturated cloud of alcohol vapor. When high-energy particles pass through, they collide with atoms in the chamber, ionizing them. Those ions then serve as nucleation sites for the alcohol vapor, creating a condensation streak that marks the particle’s passage. In some respects, they’re similar to the contrails that form behind airplanes. What you’re seeing is not the particle itself but evidence that it went by. YouTuber Nick Moore built his own cloud chamber. Learn more about it and see lots more great footage of it in action in the full video below. (Image and video credit: N. Moore)

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