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by Anna Herbst*

Watch the vlog version of this blog by clicking on the video - or read the full text below.

On January 22, 2019, Rads on a Plane webmaster Katharine Allen hopped on a flight from Los Angeles, California to Mexico City, Mexico. This latest flight brings our database to 29,045 GPS-tagged radiation measurements, 484.1 hours in the air, and 136 flights.

Over this 3-hour journey, Katharine absorbed a total cosmic radiation dose of 6.02 uGy. Recall that 10 uGy is equivalent to visiting the dentist for a panoramic X-ray. Katharine’s plane cruised steadily at the fairly high altitude of 40,300 ft and travelled a 12° range in latitude, from 32°N (Los Angeles) to 20°N (Mexico City).

The radiation levels peaked just south of the U.S.-Mexico border where the highest single recorded measurement was 2.63 uGy/hr. This is actually slightly higher than previous measurements recorded at comparable altitudes and latitudes in the same region.

With Katharine’s plane approaching the equator, the radiation exposure generally trended downward. This result is to be expected because the stronger the horizontal component of Earth’s magnetic field, the lower the cosmic radiation.

Radiation graph from LAX to Mexico City

Stay tuned for more rad updates!



Hello cosmic ray enthusiasts! I’m a founding member of the student research group Earth to Sky Calculus. My job is to reduce the data from each and every one of our balloon launches and airplane flights. We’re really excited about our research and we want to share it with everyone! My goal for these blogs is to make that information accessible to anyone interested.

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