Flip through any popular science magazine, and you’re sure to find a piece or two about the latest theories and findings in astrophysics and cosmology. That’s because the mysteries of the universe — and by extension our place in it — never fail to fascinate.
In general, though, the ability to directly participate in research in these fields has been limited… until now. An intriguing new project called CRAYFIS wants you to turn your phone into a cosmic ray detector.
When cosmic rays come to Earth, they hit the atmosphere and produce a shower of particles several kilometers wide. Very-high energy rays produce very large showers, but they are rare, and these can only be detected by equipment with a huge surface area. Previous attempts to study these particles have been done with large, expensive, and dedicated facilities, like the Pierre Auger Observatory.
Your phone likely has a camera with sensors that can detect cosmic ray showers; all you need to do to become an astrophysicist is download an app to make use of the existing equipment on your phone. Once installed, you can forget about it. If particles are detected, the software will make note of the location of the phone and upload the data.
In addition to becoming part of a very large detector array, which is kind of cool all by itself, if your device collects data used in a scientific paper, you’ll be given author credit. To join the project, simply fill in the beta tester form on the front page of the site. If you’d like to read the paper about the project in the meantime, check it out here.