Ooty’s muon detection facility measures potential of thundercloud

Ooty's muon detection facility measures potential of Thundercloud

Question: Name the place where first time in the world a muon detection facility measures potential of thundercloud?
(a) Ooty
(b) Delhi
(c) Mumbai
(d) Bengaluru
Answer 🙁 a)
Related facts:

  • For the first time in the world, researchers at the GRAPES-3 muon telescope facility in Ooty have measured the electrical potential, size and height of a thundercloud that passed overhead earlier on December 1, 2014.
  • At 1.3 gigavolts (GV), this cloud had 10 times higher potential than the previous record in a cloud.
  • Clouds have negative charges along their lower side and positive charges on top and can be several kilometres thick.
  • If balloons are used to measure the potential difference between the top and bottom, they will take hours to traverse the distance.
  • Unfortunately, thunderstorms last only for about 15-20 minutes, and this method fails.
  • Though it was known that thunderstorms had an effect on muon intensity, it had not been probed in detail earlier.

Facts about Threshold of detection:

  • Muons and other particles are produced when cosmic rays bombard air particles surrounding the earth.
  • The muons produced can have positive or negative charge.
  • When a positively charged muon falls through a cloud, it loses energy.
  • If its energy falls below 1 giga electron volt (GeV), which is the threshold of detection of the GRAPES-3 muon telescope, it goes undetected.
  • On the contrary, a negatively charged muon gains energy when falling through the cloud and gets detected.
  • Earlier in 2014, the group studied the variation of muon intensity during 184 thunderstorms.
  • In 7 events they came across thunderclouds that corresponded to a large change in muon intensity, of above 0.4%.
  • They also simultaneously monitored the profiles of the clouds using four ground-based electric field monitors.

Clue to puzzle:

  • Learning about the properties of thunderclouds can be useful in navigation of aircraft and preventing short circuits.
  • This serendipitous discovery might provide the means to making headway in this direction.

Abhinav Mishra


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