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Equipment from Irish experiment carried on Apollo-16 mission arrives in the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History

Presentation and photo call: 12 noon, Friday 17 January 2014

An Irish experiment to measure cosmic rays was carried on the Apollo-16 mission in 1972. Specially prepared plates with laminae of different materials were designed by Professors Denis O’Sullivan and Alex Thompson of the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies and their colleague Professor P. Buford Price in the University of California. As cosmic rays struck these plates, the depth to which they penetrated could be used as a measure of their energy.

Cosmic rays are very high-energy particles, mainly originating outside the Solar System. They are composed primarily of high-energy protons and atomic nuclei. The atmosphere on Earth protects us from their potentially harmful effects, but the extremely low levels of atmosphere on the Moon make it a good base where measurements of the general levels and behaviour of Cosmic rays in the Solar System may be determined.

Astronauts need to be protected from cosmic rays as do satellites and space vehicle electronics. The experiments carried out using Irish innovations and measurements made in Dublin have helped our understanding of these issues.

Professors O’Sullivan and Thompson are now retired from DIAS. They will be presenting the plates that were used for their cosmic ray measurements to the National Museum of Ireland. These will join the museum’s other space collections which include a piece of Moon rock and an Irish tricolour flag that travelled to the Moon and back, presented to the Irish people by the Nixon administration in 1973. The museum also holds a collection of meteorites that includes fragments of the Moon and Mars.

Nigel Monaghan, Keeper of the Natural History Division, National Museum of Ireland commented:

“The museum is delighted to receive these important scientific objects into its care. We hold millions of specimens covering 200 years of Irish scientific endeavour and are proud of the role played by Irish scientists in space exploration.”

For more press information contact:

Nigel Monaghan, Keeper, Natural History Division, National Museum of Ireland

T: 01 6486354 | M: 087 7985570 | E: nmonaghan@museum.ie

Maureen Gaule, Marketing Department

T: 01 648 6429 | M: 087 2075133 | E: mgaule@museum.ie

Useful Links

Cosmic Ray Detection on Apollo 16 missionLinks to external website

Irish Moon RockLinks to external website

Forty years of space physics in DIAS (pdf, 10MB)Links to external website

Notes to the Editor

Admission to the National Museum of Ireland and its exhibitions is free

• Open Tuesday – Saturday 10.00am – 5.00pm

• Sunday 2.00pm – 5.00pm

 
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