Podcast: The Muon Camera

Particle detectors don’t always have to be massive, expensive machines at cutting edge physics laboratories. Undergraduate physics students Kristina Pritchard and Shemaiah Khopang, both at Missouri Southern State University, worked with their faculty advisor David McKee to build a muon detector out of a Sony digital camera.

Taking the camera apart. Image: Kristina Pritchard

They inserted a piece of magnesium fluoride in front of the camera’s image sensor so when a muon passed through, it left behind a ring of blue light.

Examples of magnesium fluoride disks that were inserted into the camera.
Image: Kristina Pritchard

After weeks of work finding the necessary parts and reassembling their detector, they took their first data. Though it’s not the perfect rings they had hoped to see, it looks like they found their first muon.

The gray blob that the camera/particle detector saw which is probably the trail of a muon.
Image: Kristina Pritchard

The light blob is likely from the Cherenkov radiation ring left behind from the muon passing through the magnesium fluoride. Pritchard and Khopang hope that with more work and processing they’ll be able to see a clearer, blue ring that’s the unmistakable mark of a muon leaving behind a Cherenkov ring.

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