|Also called: cosmic radiation radiation consisting of particles, esp protons, of very high energy that reach the earth from outer space|
A ray of radiation of extraterrestrial origin, consisting of one or more charged particles such as protons, alpha particles, and larger atomic nuclei. Cosmic rays entering the atmosphere collide with atoms, producing secondary radiation, such as pions, muons, electrons, and gamma rays. Cosmic rays (and secondary radiation) can be easily seen in a cloud chamber.
Elementary particles, mainly protons, that are produced by the sun and other stars and then strike the upper atmosphere of the Earth. Some of these particles are absorbed, some help form the Van Allen belt, and some reach the Earth's surface, where they form a part of the background radiation that constantly surrounds us.