ADA in stratosphere

Few days ago, from the Nevada desert  in the USA was launched a stratospheric balloon promoted by “” for an experiment on cosmic rays, this as support to the ADA project (Astroparticle Detector Array) a ground based detectors network. The ADA detectors are used for educational purpose, to study these subatomic particles coming from the space and called cosmic rays or astro-particles. The ADA project was born among Venegono Inferiore (VA), Tradate (VA) and Cariati (CS) in Italy and today it involves many educational institutions and astronomical groups in Italy, Switzerland and Luxembourg.

Earth to sky calculus team


The balloon was launched by a team of students called “Earth to Sky Calculus”, since 2015 they monitor ionizing radiation in the atmosphere. The team is headed by dr. Tony Phillips of NASA who runs the highly-frequented astronomical portal

In addition to routine instruments, the balloon has carried some “dosimeters” made of PADC (polyallyl diglycol carbonate) which are actually sunglasses sponsored by the Sordelli company in Venegono Inferiore (Italy), with its well-known eyewear brand (eyeglasses and sunglasses) Touch.  Indeed to allow this experience, on the glasses were specially mounted Zeiss lenses made of PADC, known also as CR-39. This material usually used in optics, is the same and identical material used for nuclear dosimeters.

“PADC dosimeters”


The PADC detectors are ideal for impress – as on a photographic film – traces of heavy particles such as neutrons, protons, alpha particles, and nuclei with high atomic number ‘Z’. In cosmic ray physics, PADC and other plastic polymers are used in high-altitude experiments to obtain information on the type of primary interaction due to heavy ions such as iron.

Subatomic particles traces in Zeiss lenses (CR39)


The purpose of the experiment is threefold: to support scientific research conducted by small independent educational realities; promote the ADA project on cosmic rays; be able to record traces of cosmic particles through the CR-39.

The balloon has reached an altitude between 30,000 and 40,000 meters, where ultraviolet radiation is extreme, the temperature is below 60 °C and the flux of cosmic rays is very high. At these altitudes the ionizing radiation is a mixture of low and high energy particles, because the secondary cosmic radiation (particles that are produced in the atmosphere by interaction with the primary cosmic rays) overlaps the primary one (the particles coming from the space).

The balloon in “space”


Now we have to wait until the data collected by the American team return to Italy, the results obtained will be used for our research, which we will publish later on the most interesting facts, for more information visit

The ADA project

Micrometeorites are we sure?


Micrometeorites are populary known as sub-millimetric pieces of materials with almost perfect spherical shape, for this reason are also called cosmic microspherules.

It is quite simple to collect micrometeorites also from your garden, there are so many blog and videos on how to gather this presumible “cosmic dust” but, are we sure that they comes from space?

How do they form?

Is it thought that very tiny cosmic material enter in the earth’s atmosphere and they melt in the upper layers of the air by friction due to gravitational force. Otherwise a little meteorite can disintegrate in the top of the atmosphere and producing grains of sand that melt in the same fashion.

Micrometeorite or micrometeowrong?

Some years ago I’ve collected many of that micro-spherules, almost surely they are made of iron, since thay stick to magnets, but of course this is only a weak clue that they could be cosmic dust. Soon I realized that perhaps there is something wrong or not completely understood.

Microspherules collected in 2014 probably micrometeorites



First of all, researchers collect cosmic dust called IDP (interplanetary dust particle), since the early 1970s by means of high altitude airplane flyes, and this samples are not (or not ever) spherical.

IDP sample (NASA)

Another process that can produce microspherules are lightning. Lightning have huge energy and can reach very high temperatures of million degree, the same temperature of a fusion nuclear reactor. So lightning can melt everything and indeed they form microspherules.

A mini-lab experiment

To prove that anyhow is not necessary a big bolt to form a microsphere here there’s an hint.

This kind of plasma (or lightning) generator produce an high voltage discharge (some tens of kilovolts), enought to melt sand in few seconds.

Lightning “simulator”

First I’ve tried with simple sand from my backyard, producing this one:


A perfect sphere probably made of silicon or some silicate, also interesting the “crater” sorrounding it.

Hence I’ve tried with sand got by scratching two hematite minerals, since I wished for iron as raw material:

Hematite’s sand


I couldn’t believe my eyes when I turned on the plasma generator!

I’d got the same iron micrometeorites as I found in my garden time ago.


Micrometeowrong or “artificial” micrometeorite


So seems to me that most of the microspherules gathered and collected as micrometeorites are not micrometeorites or if they are, they are not melted by friction with air, but most probably melted by some electrical process in the amosphere. Indeed in atmosphere there are many electrical phenomena not well understood, you have probably heard some of them like sprites or blue jets:

Electrical discharge phenomena in atmosphere (wikipedia)


Recalling spherules from Mars

Very similar to microspherules, the martian spherules, known also as martian blueberries, seems (to me) obtained in a kind of electrical discharge on a large scale, because these are by dimension not of micro-meters but of centimeters. There are many speculation on the formation of this bullets, but still they remain a mistery.

Martian  blueberries


Don’t count your chickens before they hatch

Of course this does not want to be a formal scientific article, but the next time you find a microspherule think about this, a microspherule could be: a man made product, sand melted by lightning, volcanic material, and of course cosmic dust melted by some process in the earth’s atmosphere.

The only way to be sure if a sample comes from space is an analysis made by an university or a specialized laboratory.

Marco Arcani 06.25.2017


A trip to cosmic rays

Cosmic rays


Despite its name cosmic rays are not rays but mainly charged particles coming from space, probably many people knows something about this ionizing radiation but perhaps excursionists in high mountain don’t know very well or ignore the existance of this kind of dangerous radiation.

Some artistic images typically named “cosmic rays shower”


Ionizing radiation is a radiation that causes breaking of cells and DNA’s helixes in our body, usually if the absorbed dose is under a certain limit, our immune system repairs the cells and reconstructs the ruined DNA, the value of this limit is equal to 1 mSv at year.

Cosmic rays measurement at 3400 m.


Indeed the high mountain is an harsh environment:  precipices, wind, cold, UV radiation, dropping of oxigenation and of course the cosmic radiation. Well the former are surely more dangerous than cosmic rays, however the absorbed dose at 3500m of altitude is equal – at least – three times the radiation at sea level.

Sports Camera
Climbing to the Quintino Sella hut


In this trip to the Quintino Sella hut in Italy I’ve made several measurement with a simple commercial dosimeter.

383 nSv/h at almost 3600m.


As you can see from the graph below, there is a steep increasing of the cosmic radiation over 3000 m.



Not need being too worried about that, in a whole year is very difficult to overtake 1mSv of absorbed dose due to mountain journeys, instead must be carefully taken into account eventual flights. In an airplane that typically flies at 10-11000 m the absorbed dose is more and more great, indeed pilots and the airplane’s crew know very well this problem, but this is another story…

The Quintino Sella hut


Galileus Perspicillum

Construction of the Galileo’s telescope with recycled materials (a DIY).

Every amateur astronomer remains amazed at how Galileo, with his rudimentary telescope, has been able to make so many discoveries, so the curiosity to look into the eyepiece of the first telescope of the story is great. On Galileo’s telescope, on how it was built and how to build a copy, you can find many articles. On the site of the museum in Florence for example it is reported the optical design and on the Sidereus Nuncius (alternatively, also here) there is of course the original scheme of Galileo. The solution presented here is an educational alternative and also (very) economic, to get an instrument, in principle similar” to the Galilean telescope.

Rummaging through my recovery of lenses and camera lenses I did not have a plano-convex lens of 50mm in diameter and one meter focal length (so it was probably that of Galilei) So I thought it might be possible to use an additional macro lens or a simple eyeglasses lens of one diopter (+1) that is one meter focal length indeed.

Both the  eyeglasses lens and the additional lens are meniscus, the main difference with the plano-convex lenses is that the last have a more pronounced spherical aberration. However the main purpose was to respect  – at least – the focal lenses of the Galileo telescope.



To stay on the field with the material that anyone can have in the house, as primary lens then I used the lens of an eyeglasses. For the eyepiece was needed a planoconcave short focal length (about 5 cm). Fortunately among various recoveries I had a couple that could be fine. From an old video surveillance camera I removed all lenses and I used the barrel as accommodation for the “eyepiece” lens, that plano-convex. The first tests by mounting these two lenses on a cardboard tube and framing the Moon indicated that the way was the right one.


Some lenses from “scrap” photography, at the top, to the right the plano-concave lens for the eyepiece and the primary lens (objective) from the +1 eyeglasses, it is also recoverable from some eyeglasses sold in any hardware store for few money.


Using the hacksaw (piercing saw) were made two wooden disks to accommodate the lens glasses:


Construction of the support for the lens and tube section of 60 mm for the primary lens.


Holes obtained with hacksaw.


For the body of the telescope the logical choice falls on plastic pipes for plumbing. A tube of 50 mm for the main body, a tube of 60 mm to accommodate the objective lens and a tube of 40 mm for the focuser. Fortunately the barrel of the old videocamera sit almost perfectly in the secondary pipe. To accommodate the various pipes together, they were wrapped by strips of fabric like velvet.

Even if the focal length of the main lens is one meter in the end the whole length of the telescope is about 90 cm because the secondary lens being a negative (plane-concave) shortens the total focal.


After blackened inside the tubes and any other parts with spray paint,  was prepared the primary lens, with the possibility to remove the lens and replace it if necessary in the future.


Support for the main objective almost finished. The two disks glued between two thicknesses allow the removal of the lens, but when the support is housed in the tube the lens can not get out.


Mounting of the eyepiece in the tube.


For a finishing touch there are two alternatives:  painting or coating with some material. The Galileo’s telescopes were covered with leather, my model is coated with a plastic material found in a shop of fabric scraps, It is like synthetic leather, very thin but very vaguely reminiscent of the leather.


Coating the pipes was the much longer job, in total to build the Galileo’s telescope took about six intense hours.

The total cost of this enterprise can vary depending on what you can recover, but no more than 20 to 30 euro/pound/bucks.




Being able to play the original decorations of the most famous telescope in history (the second in the bottom of the picture above) it is only a work for artists or professionals. Personally I opted for the simple golden profiles (dc-fix), one for each original decoration, moreover I added a kind of plate to make it clear now to everyone that this is not a whatsoever refractor.

Galileo's telescope by marco arcani

As housing for storage when not in use, I used a cardboard tube covered with pages from the Sidereus Nuncius , an idea that I found online, very beautiful and aesthetically pleasing.


My daughter watching the Sun with the projection method, the sunspots are clearly visible.


The setting Moon, on the left a simulation of what we seen through the telescope, the image is very bright and sharp, affected only by a light chromatic aberration on the edge. Photographing the Moon through the telescope is an hard job, on the right an attempt to photograph it, hope to do better in the next time.


This above was made a couple of day after…

Notice that through the eyepiece is visible only a part of the Moon, but moving your eyeball around you can see the whole Moon, so Galileo saw for the first time our satellite more than 400 years ago.

If you are interest into a true whole woodden copy go to my friend Antonio


ALFMED stands for: Apollo Light Flash Moving Emulsion Detector (but also: Apollo Light Flash Experiment Medical Device), was one of the first devices built to investigate on the effects of cosmic radiation for humans in space.

From the early Apollo missions, but probably before, astronauts claimed to see flashes of light during their missions in space. It did not take long time to suspect that the cosmic rays were responsible for this phenomenon, however the physiological mechanism of vision was not so clear.
To verify and proof if were particles the cause of visual disturbance and to understand what stimulated the flashes of light seen by the astronauts was built ALFMED, an helmet equipped with nuclear photographic emulsions in order to verify and record the passage of the particles in the head of those who worn it.


The original NASA ALFMED

ALFMED used a photographic plate mounted on a movable mechanism and one or two photographic plates in a fixed position. The astronauts had to wait fifteen minutes in total darkness before starting the experiment (dark glasses inside served as a shield to facilitate adaptation). Once ALFMED turned on, the movable plate began to move slowly, every time the astronaut (in contact with the mission center) saw the flashes of light, he informed the mission center so that every event was recorded (hour, minute and second of the event), the operation lasted about one hour. Once developed the film, through the comparison of the traces left by the particles in the emulsions and the data recorded during the experiment, was possible to check the exact moment of the interaction.

There was no longer doubt, cosmic rays were and are responsible for this phenomenon, also known as phosphenes. The early explanation was attributed to a Cherenkov radiation effect produced by particles in the eyeball. Although this may remain a possible explanation, other mechanisms seem to be more plausible, such as direct interaction with the retina of the eyes or with other components of the human visual system like optic nerve, neurons and interneurons.

The multiple interaction mechanism could explain the variety of events seen, indeed some seem to be like flash bulbs and other to be like moving objects as falling stars.


The ALFMED-R (replica) uses two Geiger Muller tubes placed one on each side, so that when worn they remain in close proximity to the temporal area (temples) of the experimenter. Two led lights (in front to the sunglasses) indicate the passage of particles in the tubes, right and left, and very probably in the head of the wearer. If a particle passes through both tubes and hence the head of the experimenter, there is the coincidence between the signals right and left and thus both the led are lighted. In this case also a third led (on the ALFMED-R front) will be lighted remarking the coincidence and therefore the passage of the horizontal particle.


Nevertheless there is a possible shower effect (say 30%), indeed the tubes (GMT) are placed side by side and not stacked, so that the coincidence may be detected for different particles that pass through the two tubes at the same time (is it possible to drop the shower effect to almost zero, just turning the head and ALFMED-R, 90° on a side).

Is possible to connect ALFMED-R with a cable to any computer and to use the  AstroRad software to count the flow of particles

Why to build an ALFMED replica?

This replica of ALFMED can to persuade – if needed – the most skeptical people about cosmic rays phenomenon, in a let me say psichedelic way.

Rotated 90° on a side it works as a good cosmic rays telescope, that connected to a computer it can measure the flow of particles per unit of time. Connected with an EEG (electroencephalogram) can be used for experiments in quantum entanglement (we’ll see).

And if we want to overdo, carried this version of ALFMED into orbit has no reason to not work as well as the original ALFMED!

Detectors: 2GMT SBM19
Power supply: 2 x 1.5V batteries, 1 x 9V battery
Interface: USB 5V-TTL
Weight: 3.5 Kg

For further information please visit:

Configuration file for raspberry pi using composite vga output

Now I’m setting a new cosmic rays experiment using a raspberry pi card, but since I would use a small vga screen, it need the rpi vga turned on. After hours spent to make me crazy, I found a configuration for raspi that enable the vga (rca out) instead of the HDMI, this to use the card with old vga monitors or surveillance video screen and so. It seems to work well.

After a backup copy of your config.txt file, you can try this:

(copy paste in your config.txt and save)

# Raspberry Pi configuration file
# Composite video mode:     PAL 50 Hz (non-Brazilian version)
# Composite aspect ratio:   4:3
# Overscan:                 Enabled, 15 pixels
# HDMI resolution:          From EDID
# HDMI sound:               Enabled
#Title: HDMI default, PAL (European) fallback
#Desc: Output to European composite video (PAL) if HDMI is not connected at boot.

# for more options see

This works both with raspbian and pidora.

AstroParticelle, The Book

astroparticelle-coverAuto intervista (omaggio alla follia)

Buongiorno parliamo del suo nuovo libro Astroparticelle – In Viaggio tra i Raggi Cosmici; che cosa sono le astroparticelle?

Come suggerisce la definizione sono particelle subatomiche provenienti dallo spazio emesse da diversi oggetti astronomici. Sono chiamate storicamente raggi cosmici. Continua a leggere “AstroParticelle, The Book”