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A schematic view of the Cherenkov effect.
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Radiation

If you are sitting in the dentist's chair and they decide to X-ray your teeth, they put a big shield over you for protection. Why? Because they need to shield you from 'radiation'.

Radiation comes in many forms. Radiation is another term for light, as in "ultraviolet radiation". Visible light, infrared, and X-rays are all other names for radiation at specific wavelengths. Radiation is also generated by charged particles, especially when they are moving very fast.

One place in nature where charged particles can move very fast is inside a planet's magnetic field. Earth, Jupiter, and even the little moon Ganymede, all are surrounded by belts of radiation.

Radiation can kill you. Radiation can also damage spacecraft. Radiation can harmful because it causes little defects in material, from human skin to metals, and causes matter to break down. Radiation can also do good things, though, such as helping doctors to image your body and determine what if something is wrong.

A special kind of radiation, called Cherenkov radiation is illustrated in this drawing.

Last modified September 19, 2003 by Roberta Johnson.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF