What is Cosmic Radiation?

The term cosmic radiation is an umbrella term, encompassing all of the radioactive sources in the universe. Fortunately, here on earth, our atmosphere serves as one of the most powerful radiation shielding and protective products – and it’s free. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to prevent the destruction of the earth’s atmosphere. As the atmosphere decays via elevated carbon emissions and other environmental pollutants, it will shield us less and less from higher-energy cosmic radiation invaders.

Cosmic radiation is considered an ionizing form of radiation, meaning it can potentially alter our DNA. However, the majority of the cosmic radiation we encounter from outer space is absorbed in such very low doses, we aren’t negatively impacted by it. In that way, cosmic radiation is similar to other “everyday” sources of radiation – such as cell phones and microwaves.


Cosmic radiation is a collection of many types of radiation

The following are some of the sources and types of radiation that make their way to us through outer space. Fortunately, as a result of their interaction with the atmosphere (which acts a super-filter), the particles arrive on our planet in a much less potent form. That’s why we aren’t harmed or made ill from them.

Gamma Rays

Gamma rays are (in scientific terms), “a form of electromagnetic radiation” at a higher spectrum and frequency than x-rays. While we can recreate gamma rays or gamma radiation in a lab, the cosmic-sourced forms of gamma rays are created by gamma ray bursts (GRBs). These are the most energetic form of light and produce enough energy that, for a few seconds, they can outshine an entire galaxy.

Microwave background radiation

This is typically what people are talking about when they mention cosmic radiation. According to physlink.com, microwave background radiation, “…consists of very, very low energy photons (energy of about 2.78 Kelvin) whose spectrum is peaked in the microwave region and which are remnants from the time when the universe was only about 200,000 years old.” By the time they reach us, microwave background radiation forms are rendered virtually harmless.


All of the luminous bodies in the universe emit photons in the forms of particles and waves. This includes our sun (more on that next), stars, quasi-stellar objects and so on. Some of these are much higher-energy than others. For the most part, any photons entering our atmosphere from these luminous objects are so low-energy we don’t have to worry about them.

UV radiation from the sun

For the most part, UV radiation from the sun is the only type of cosmic radiation we earthlings need to worry about. Because of their strength and close proximity to the earth, the UV particles are able to enter the atmosphere at such a high energy that atmospheric interference/protection isn’t quite enough for our naked skin.

Hence, over exposure to UV rays causes sunburns and skin cancers, and those can wind up metastasizing into other forms of cancer. This is why it’s so important to wear protective clothing, hats, sunglasses and/or use sunscreen on exposed areas of your skin when you’re outdoors – particularly during peak seasons and peak hours of the day (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.).

Neutrinos, high energy muons, protons, anti-protons, and more

All of the celestial bodies mentioned above, as well as others, also emit a series of other particles throughout their emergence and interactions with one other. These include additional sources of cosmic radiation, including neutrinos, high energy muons, protons, electrons, ant-protons and others.

Fortunately for us, the highest and most energetically charged of these never make it to the earth’s atmosphere or surface. They are either deflected by magnetic fields between their original source and us, they lose energy as they interact with other particles along the way or they simply decay during their long flight.

So, never fear; for now and – hopefully – during your lifetime, cosmic radiation won’t be a concern for you. If, however, you find yourself in a radioactive career or working in an industry that utilizes/exposes you to radioactive sources, contact us here at Lancs Industries so we can provide you with the right radiation shielding and protection.

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