100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Physicist Discovers Mysterious Rays From Outer Space

For many years scientists have been puzzled by the levels of ionizing radiation measured in the atmosphere. The assumption at the time was that Earth was the source of th

e radiation and that it would decrease the farther you got from the Earth. Instead, the radiation increased, that higher in the atmosphere the level of radiation may actually be more than that on the ground. Austrian physicist Victor Hess increased the precision of the measuring equipment and then decided to take the equipment aloft in a balloon. He measured the radiation at altitudes up to 5.3 km. The flights were made both at day and during the night at significant risk to himself during 1911-1912.

In April 1912 Hess ascended in a balloon to measure changes in radiation during a solar eclipse. The electroscopes on his balloon began measuring an increase in radiation at 5,350 feet and at 15,000 feet the amount doubled. Because the eclipse was blocking it’s rays, the penetrating radiation was entering the atmosphere from a source other than the Sun.

On August 7, 1912 The result of Hess’s meticulous work was published in the Proceedings of the Viennese Academy of Sciences. His conclusion are that there was radiation must be penetrating the atmosphere from outer space. Hess called this Höhenstrahlung, “radiation from above.”

Victor Hess in his research balloon – 1912


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