How scientists are using cosmic radiation to peek inside the pyramids

Scientists are using cosmic radiation to peek inside the pyramids using a non-invasive investigation technique known as Muon tomography.

Muon tomography is little like space exploration in reverse. Instead of using instruments constructed on Earth to investigate space, it relies on cosmic rays produced in space to delve into things on Earth. Cosmic rays are high-energy particles that hurtle through space at near the speed of light. “When a high-energy cosmic particle hits the upper atmosphere, it produces a large shower of particles,” explains Prof Ralf Kaiser, a physicist at the University of Glasgow. “Most of these particles are stopped in the atmosphere. But some of them make it all the way down to the ground. And those are typically muons.”

“[Muons can] cross tens of metres of concrete. They’ll also pass through your body without doing anything,” says Kaiser. “They’re ubiquitous, penetrating and cost-free. They’re everywhere and they’re part of the natural environment.” In short, muons are just the thing for getting a glimpse inside structures you can’t get into, structures like sealed chambers in pyramids, closed-off caverns in archaeological sites and conduits inside volcanoes. The trick to doing that, however, is catching the muons that have passed through the structure and using them to create an image of what’s inside.

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