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At the higher end of the energy spectrum, relativistic kinetic energy is the main source of the mass-energy of cosmic rays.The Oh-My-God particle, the highest-energy fermionic cosmic ray detected to date, had an energy of about times more energetic than the highest-energy detected cosmic photons.Upon impact with the Earth's atmosphere, cosmic rays can produce showers of secondary particles that sometimes reach the surface.Composed primarily of high-energy protons and atomic nuclei, they are of mysterious origin.Measurements of ionization rates at increasing heights above the ground during the decade from 1900 to 1910 showed a decrease that could be explained as due to absorption of the ionizing radiation by the intervening air.In 1909, Theodor Wulf developed an electrometer, a device to measure the rate of ion production inside a hermetically sealed container, and used it to show higher levels of radiation at the top of the Eiffel Tower than at its base.And he proposed a theory that they were produced in interstellar space as by-products of the fusion of hydrogen atoms into the heavier elements, and that secondary electrons were produced in the atmosphere by Compton scattering of gamma rays.
Through this process, some particles acquire tremendously high mass-energies.
Data from the Fermi Space Telescope (2013) high-energy particles with intrinsic mass are known as "cosmic" rays, while photons, which are quanta of electromagnetic radiation (and so have no intrinsic mass) are known by their common names, such as gamma rays or X-rays, depending on their photon energy.
In current usage, the term cosmic ray almost exclusively refers to massive particles, as opposed to photons.
An active search from Earth orbit for anti-alpha particles has failed to detect them.
Cosmic rays attract great interest practically, due to the damage they inflict on microelectronics and life outside the protection of an atmosphere and magnetic field, and scientifically, because the energies of the most energetic ultra-high-energy cosmic rays (UHECRs) have been observed to approach the highest-energy ultra-high-energy cosmic rays have energies comparable to the kinetic energy of a 90-kilometre-per-hour (56 mph) baseball.
The Hess balloon flight took place on 7 August 1912.