By Mika McKinnon
Cosmic rays may have just unveiled a hidden chamber within Egypt’s most famous pyramid.
An international team led by Kunihiro Morishima at Nagoya University in Japan used muons, the high-energy particles generated when cosmic rays collide with our atmosphere, to explore inside Egypt’s Great Pyramid without moving a stone.
Muons can penetrate deep into rock, and get absorbed at different rates depending on the density of the rock they encounter. By placing muon detectors within and around the pyramid, the team could see how much material the particles passed through.
“If there is more mass, fewer muons get to that detector,” says Christopher Morris at Los Alamos National Laboratory, who uses similar techniques to image the internal structure of nuclear reactors. “When there is less mass, more muons get to the detector.”
By looking at the number of muons that arrived at different locations within the pyramid and the angle at which they were travelling, Morishima and his team mapped out cavities within the ancient structure.
This type of exploration – muon radiography – is perfect for sensitive historical sites as it uses naturally occurring radiation and causes no damage to the structure.
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