Shop Windows to the Universe

The Universe at Your Fingertips 2.0 DVD from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific is in our online store, filled with Earth and space science resources.
Scientists study subatomic particles by examining the telltale trails, such as those shown here, their passage leaves behind in a bubble chamber. This image shows the first detection of a neutrino.
Click on image for full size
Argonne National Laboratory

Atomic Physics & Particle Physics

Did you know that a lot of what happens in space physics has to do with the interaction of really tiny particles? These particles like protons and electrons are so tiny that you can't even see them with your naked eye. That means you'd need special instruments to detect that they are even there.

The study of these tiny particles is called atomic physics and particle physics. Other particles have funny names like muon, neutrino, meson, and quark.

The "laws" of physics at atomic scales are so different from those we see in our "normal" experiences that physicists had to invent a whole new field in the early part of the 20th century to describe them. This field is called quantum mechanics.

Last modified September 12, 2008 by Randy Russell.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Our online store includes fun classroom activities for you and your students. Issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist are also full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science!

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Particle Radiation

Text for this level has not been written yet. Please see the "Intermediate" text for this page if you want to learn about this topic. To get to the "Intermediate" text, click on the blue "Intermediate"...more

Neutrinos

The neutrino is an extremely light particle. (You definitely couldn't weigh one on your bathroom scale!) It also has no electric charge. Fusion reactions in the Sun produce neutrinos. By detecting these...more

Can living cells repair damage from radiation?

Whether or not a cell can repair itself after being damaged by radiation depends on the type of damage to the cell's DNA. Type of Damage Prospects for DNA Repair Single strand break in the DNA Can usually...more

How can radiation damage a living cell?

High frequency radiation or fast moving particles plow into a living cell with enough energy to knock electrons free from molecules that make up the cell. These molecules with missing electrons are called...more

Atomic Physics & Particle Physics

Did you know that a lot of what happens in space physics has to do with the interaction of really tiny particles? These particles like protons and electrons are so tiny that you can't even see them with...more

Atomic Mass

One way scientists measure the size of something is by its mass. Mass is sort of like weight. Scientists can even measure very, very tiny things like atoms. One measure of the size of an atom is its "atomic...more

Atomic Number

Every atom has a nucleus. The nucleus has protons and neutrons in it. Scientists have a special name for the number of protons in an atom. They call it the "atomic number". There are almost 100 different...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA