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NASA Launches Experiment to Measure Cosmic Radiation at High Altitudes

Scientists at NASA collected measurements of cosmic radiation at high altitudes as part of an experiment that involved the use of two instrument payloads aboard a helium-filled balloon.

NASA launched the Radiation Dosimetry Experiment in September 2015 at Fort Sumner in New Mexico to bring RaySure and Teledyne TID detectors into the stratosphere to measure cosmic radiation that comes from the sun and interstellar space at altitudes between 26,000 and over 120,000 feet above Earth, NASA said Friday.

The agency noted that cosmic radiation is associated with the production of free radicals that affect cell functions.

Researchers measured dose equivalent, a standard used to quantify radiation’s health risks, and found that the dose equivalent rate in the atmosphere increases as the altitude rises.

“By having the measurements at these seven altitudes we’re really able to test how well our models capture the physics of cosmic radiation,” said Chris Mertens, RaD-X mission principal investigator at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia.

The scientists published the RaD-X results in a special issue of the Space Weather Journal and plan to use the findings to update the Nowcast of Atmospheric Ionizing Radiation for Aviation Safety and other space weather models designed to predict radiation events and help aviators determine if a specific region has unsafe radiation levels.

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