There’s an easy way to build a particle detector for around $40. Yes, you can make your own particle detector to see invisible cosmic rays from space.
In this video from US LHC at CERN — LHC stands for Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle collider — Sarah Charley explains how to make a cloud chamber that will reveal white vapor trails from the subatomic particles. From Wired:
In that custom-created fog, you’ll see mysterious trails appear. Those are cosmic rays, invisible bits of matter—often atomic nuclei—that collide with the atmosphere when they come crashing in from space. The smash lets loose a scatter of less massive particles: muons (an unstable subatomic particle that is a sort of sumo-version of an electron), electrons, and positrons (electron’s anti-matter partner). You may even see particle decays, in the form of tracks that suddenly fork in two.
To make your own particle detecting cloud chamber, you’ll need a fish tank, a piece of felt, dry ice, isopropyl alcohol, a flashlight, and safety gear. Next, follow these step by step instructions at Symmetry Magazine, which also has examples of the different tracks you might observe around 15 minutes after setting it all up.
Related reading via Joe Hanson: Make a Cosmic Ray Detector at Home and Test Relativity. Related watching: It’s Okay To Be Smart‘s How to See Time Travel.
Related experiments: dry ice and Kari Byron makes a cloud in a bottle. Bonus: TED Ed’s The beginning of the universe, for beginners.