The TimPix Project
In December 2015, Tim Peake arrived on the International Space Station (ISS) and became the first British European Space Agency (ESA) Astronaut to take up residence there. Whilst there, in amongst many science and engineering activities, he will take part in research to understand how the body reacts to being in space for long periods of time. In partnership with Professor Larry Pinsky at the University of Houston, and in collaboration with NASA, the Institute for Research in Schools is able to release data from the Timepix detectors on board the ISS and give students and teachers the opportunity to take part in this research.
Monitoring Peake radiation levels on the ISS with the Timepix detector
The Astronauts and Cosmonauts come into contact with radiation from a variety of sources while living on the ISS. This can be monitored using the Timepix hybrid silicon pixel detector, a device developed by the Medipix Collaboration and used in CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. There are five Timepix detectors on the ISS, and data from these is downloaded to NASA’s Space Radiation Analysis Group at regular intervals. The detectors themselves can measure the type - alpha, beta, gamma, Minimum Ionising Particles (MIPs), heavy ion fragments, etc. - direction and energy of the radiation.
An example frame of Timepix data from the ISS, showing a full 256 x 256 pixel frame (left) of particles detected in a 4 second interval and a close-up of a proton candidate cluster (right).
The TimPix project offers schools the unique opportunity to access Timepix detector data from the ISS during Tim’s stay. Where possible, schools will also have the chance to host a Timepix detector to carry out their own experiments. By taking part in this project schools will contribute to research that will improve our understanding of radiation in space.
Opportunities for schools
The activities associated with this project are suitable for secondary pupils studying physics and are curriculum-linked. Participating schools will be provided with:
- A research guide offering background information and starting points for experiments and data analysis;
- Suggestions for starter investigations, including data sets from the time of the 2015 solar eclipse and sources of data for information on the Sun's behaviour;
- Access to information recorded at an online CPD session.
The ISS Timepix data is made available to the Institute for Research in Schools thanks to Professor Larry Pinsky at the University of Houston in collaboration with NASA, with special thanks to Dr Nic Stoffle of the Space Radiation Analysis Group.