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Cosmic Rays

Cosmic rays make up about 8% of our background radiation. They are composed of both primary energetic particles that originate in outer space and secondary particles that are generated by the interaction of primary particles with the atmosphere. Primary energetic particles usually consist of particles that are familiar to us, such as protons, atomic nuclei, or electrons. There are, however, trace amounts of other matter that are not discussed here. The effects of cosmic rays are partially shielded by the magnetic field of the Earth, which means that the intensity of cosmic rays is much larger outside the Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field. This could also mean that the amount of radiation you are exposed to can partially depend on how close you approach the upper part of the atmosphere. When astronauts have to travel outside of the earth’s atmosphere, the effect of cosmic radiation becomes a hazard. Space gear has to be designed specifically to combat such high energy radiation.