Cerenkov Radiation

A charged particle emits Cerenkov radiation (light) in a cone around its direction of travel when it travels through any medium faster than the speed of light through that medium.

Cerenkov - is the name of the scientist who first recognized the nature of this effect and its possible use for distinguishing particle types.

Although the speed of light in a vacuum is the fastest speed that any particle or light can have, in a medium of any type light travels more slowly because of its interactions with the electric fields of the atoms in the medium and so it is possible for a high energy particle to be faster than light in some material.

The blue light in the pools of water you may have seen in pictures of nuclear power plants is Cerenkov radiation from particles produced in the reactor.

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Subjects: Physics