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Animation of cosmic rays hitting the Earth, showing the shower of particles produced, and the detection of muons. Cosmic rays are high-energy particles that originate from events in space. Earth is constantly bombarded by this radiation. The particles collide with atoms in the atmosphere, producing showers of secondary particles. The diagram seen here shows some of the particles produced. A high-energy proton collides with an atmospheric atom, producing pions, protons and neutrons. These decay further into gamma rays (waves) and muons, heavier counterparts to the electron. The muons are relatively stable, and can be detected by airborne balloons and ground-based detectors, and even underground.
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