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Using the human eye to image space radiation or the history and status of the light flash phenomena
KTH, School of Engineering Sciences (SCI), Physics, Particle and Astroparticle Physics.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0406-0962
2007 (English)In: Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section A: Accelerators, Spectrometers, Detectors and Associated Equipment, ISSN 0168-9002, Vol. 580, no 2, 861-865 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

About 80% of people who travel in space experience sudden phosphenes, commonly called light flashes (LF). Although the detailed physiological process is still not known, the LFs are caused by particles in the cosmic radiation field. Indeed, by counting LFs one can even make a crude image of the radiation environment around the Earth. Studies on the space station Mir with the SilEye experiment correlated LFs with charged particles traversing the eye. It was found that a nucleus in the radiation environment has roughly a 1% probability of causing a light flash, whereas the proton's probability is almost three orders of magnitude less. As a function of linear energy transfer (LET), the probability increased with ionization above 10 keV/mu m, reaching about 5% at 50 keV/mu m. The investigations are continuing on the International Space Station (ISS) with the Alteino/SileEye-3 detector, which is also a precursor to the large Anomalous Long Term Effects on Astronauts (ALTEA) facility. These detectors are also measuring-imaging-the radiation environment inside the ISS, which will be compared to Geant4 simulations from the DESIRE project. To further the understanding of the LF phenomena, a survey among current NASA and ESA astronauts was recently conducted. The LFs are predominantly noticed before sleep and some respondents even thought it disturbed their sleep. The LFs appear white, have elongated shapes, and most interestingly, often come with a sense of motion. Comparing the shapes quoted from space observations with ground experiments done by researchers in the 1970s, it seems likely that some 5-10% of the LFs in space are due to Cherenkov light in the eye. However, the majority is most likely caused by some direct interaction in the retina.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2007. Vol. 580, no 2, 861-865 p.
Keyword [en]
spaceflight, light flash, phosphenes, radiation, particles
National Category
Physical Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-40782DOI: 10.1016/j.nima.2007.06.095ISI: 000250128000008OAI: diva2:442606
3rd International Conference on Imaging Techniques in Subatomic Physics, Astrophysics, Medicine, Biology and Industry Location: Stockholm, Sweden, Date: JUN 27-30, 2006 Available from: 2011-09-22 Created: 2011-09-20 Last updated: 2011-09-22Bibliographically approved

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Fuglesang, Christer
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