Cosmic Flash

Posted on Sunday, September 24, 2006


Two weeks ago I was in London for the Space Soon symposium on Art and Human Spaceflight. Tim Otto Roth, with whom I collaborated during the ESA study for a cultural policy for the ISS, presented here for the first time his proposed project for the ISS entitled 'Cosmic Flash'. Here is the original description of the Cosmic Flash project from the ESA study report:

This project concentrates on an invisible challenge for humans in space: the impact of highly energetic cosmic particles and radiation.

The idea is based around scientific research conducted onboard the ISS on the so-called ‘Light Flash’ (LF) phenomena. Originally predicted in 1952 and reported for the first time in 1969 by the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon, LFs consist of unexpected visual phenomena caused by the interaction of cosmic rays with the eyes of the astronaut. They occur in space with frequency and type, which can vary considerably from subject to subject.

The aim is to make this LF phenomena visible on Earth in near realtime by using the LAZIO LF experiment (human body as a particle detector) which was brought up and used onboard the ISS during the recent ESA’s Eneide mission (April 2005).

During the operation of the LF experiment, the crew member pushes a joystick button each time they have a light flash, which will be transmitted to the Earth and trigger a light flash in a prominent place. The Tour Eiffel in Paris is suggested as such a good location because it has played an important role in the discovery of cosmic rays (1910 by Theodor Wulf, see image on frontcover).

The 1-week installation will be transmitting the experiment two or three hours in the evening (LF rate ~3-6/min). Additionally the voice can be transmitted via loudspeaker describing the impression of the flash. On a large screen the realtime position of the ISS can be indicated.


At Space Soon, he managed to get an interview with Alan Bean, one of the 9 remaining Apollo astronauts to walk on the Moon and ask him about his experiences with Cosmic Flashes.

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