Cherenkov Radiation

From Ascension Glossary
This is an image from the Idaho National Laboratory's Advanced Test Reactor [1]

Cherenkov Radiation is electromagnetic radiation emitted when a charged particle (such as an electron) passes through a dielectric medium at a speed greater than the phase velocity (speed of propagation of a wavefront in a medium) of light in that medium. A classic example of Cherenkov radiation is the characteristic blue glow of an underwater nuclear reactor. Its cause is similar to the cause of a sonic boom, the sharp sound heard when faster-than-sound movement occurs. The phenomenon is named after Soviet physicist Pavel Cherenkov.


The radiation is named after the Soviet scientist Pavel Cherenkov, the 1958 Nobel Prize winner, who was the first to detect it experimentally under the supervision of Sergey Vavilov at the Lebedev Institute in 1934. Therefore, it is also known as Vavilov–Cherenkov radiation. Cherenkov saw a faint bluish light around a radioactive preparation in water during experiments. His doctorate thesis was on luminescence of uranium salt solutions that were excited by gamma rays instead of less energetic visible light, as done commonly. He discovered the anisotropy of the radiation and came to the conclusion that the bluish glow was not a fluorescent phenomenon.

A theory of this effect was later developed in 1937 within the framework of Einstein's special relativity theory by Cherenkov's colleagues Igor Tamm and Ilya Frank, who also shared the 1958 Nobel Prize.

Cherenkov radiation as conical wavefronts had been theoretically predicted by the English polymath Oliver Heaviside in papers published between 1888 and 1889[5] and by Arnold Sommerfeld in 1904, but both had been quickly dismissed following the relativity theory's restriction of superluminal particles until the 1970s. Marie Curie observed a pale blue light in a highly concentrated radium solution in 1910, but did not investigate its source. In 1926, the French radiotherapist Lucien Mallet described the luminous radiation of radium irradiating water having a continuous spectrum.[2]


See Also

Marian Apparition

Electric Charge

Electromagnetic Wave Spectrum

Spectrum of Frequency

Law of Polarity