In this 1957 photograph, an unnamed NACA physicist studies alpha rays in a continuous cloud chamber. NACA, the National Advisory Council on Aeronautics, was NASA's predecessor.

Scientists at the Lewis Research Center (now the Glenn Research Center) used the cloud chamber to obtain information aimed at minimizing undesirable effects of radiation on nuclear-powered aircraft components. Here, alpha particles from a polonium source emit in a flower-like pattern at the cloud chamber's center. The particles are made visible by means of alcohol vapor diffusing from an area at room temperature to an area at minus -78 degrees Centigrade. Nuclear-powered aircraft were never developed and aircraft nuclear propulsion systems were canceled in the early 1960s.

Image Credit: NASA


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