back to article Exploding alien bodies' space death-rays gave Earth its radiation cloak

Scientists have solved a 60-year mystery by figuring out the source of harmful and highly energetic electrons whizzing around in Earth’s inner radiation belt. Space is more than the final frontier. It is treacherous beyond belief. Earth is circled by swarms of charged particles, starting from 500km out to a distance of 58, …

  1. W Donelson

    Awesome research!

    Looks like low-earth orbit mostly, for manned missions.

    Cosmic rays recently determined to be TWICE as damaging as previously thought. Mars is out.

    https://phys.org/news/2017-06-collateral-cosmic-rays-cancer-mars.html

    1. Brangdon

      Re: Mars is out

      That's a bit of an over-reaction. 2x risk is still fairly low, and on Mars they have plenty of mass to make shielding from.

      1. Naselus

        Re: Mars is out

        "on Mars they have plenty of mass to make shielding from."

        The problem isn't so much once you get there, as the designing a craft that can make a year-long journey safely.

        Radiation shielding is heavy (pretty much by definition), and needing more of it makes it exponentially more expensive to lift a craft into space (since you need extra fuel to lift the heavier shielding, and extra fuel on top of that to move the extra fuel).

        1. ravenviz Silver badge

          Re: Mars is out

          I thought we were all going to be living in lava tubes.

        2. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: Mars is out

          Water is a good shield, and you want that anyway.

          Rocket fuel is also a decent shield, which you also want so you can come back.

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Mars is out

          The best radiation shield there is, is water.

          It's heavy, as you say, but longer term there's a lot of ice already out there which could be used instead of hauling it out of the gravity well.

  2. G R Goslin

    Neutral atoms?

    Neutral atoms? Where do these 'neutral' atoms come from? The atom, as a whole is neutral, because the orbiting electrons cancel out the charge on the nucleus The nucleus is always positively charged. So, the bit with the neutrons, is never neutral. A free neutron, and where do these come from, has a half life of only minutes, so there are none of those about. The theory may well be correct, but the article is not.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Neutral atoms?

      "A free neutron, and where do these come from"

      Cosmic rays? So from supernovas for a start.

      1. Scroticus Canis Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: Free neutrons ... Cosmic rays? So from supernovas for a start.

        Yes but only if your no more than about 25 light minutes away from it.

        Free neutrons have an average life of about 14-15 minutes before they decay into a proton, electron and an electron anti-neutrino (occasionally a gamma photon is produced as well). Thus we on earth will never see free neutrons in cosmic rays but may see a few in solar radiation (low energy as they are not accelerated by magnet or electrical fields).

        This is the reason why there are no clouds of neutrons in space, but loads of hydrogen in both neutral and ionised states.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Free neutrons ... Cosmic rays? So from supernovas for a start.

          >>Yes but only if your no more than about 25 light minutes away from it.

          Free neutrons are also caused by muons produced by cosmic ray interaction with the atmosphere of Earth.

    2. Big John Silver badge

      Re: Neutral atoms?

      Last I heard, any electrons in orbitals about a nucleus are considered part of the atom? When did "atom" get redefined as the nucleus only?

    3. Robert Forsyth

      Re: Neutral atoms?

      Isn't space full of hydrogen atoms, an electron around a proton, one per cubic metre. What would be required to ionize that into H+ and e- ?

    4. Chemical Bob
      Coat

      Re: Where do these 'neutral' atoms come from?

      Switzerland

    5. MondoMan

      Re: Neutral atoms?

      The story is slightly in error, as this post correctly points out. The neutrons that are decaying into protons and electrons are those from the nuclei of atoms hit by (high energy) cosmic rays.

  3. Stuart Halliday

    Just to be topical - Earth is Flat, NASA fakes everything and and anything else barmy.

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Earth is Flat

      NASA should be funded for a mission to send a probe under the earth to look at the bottom, we need to know if it's turtles all the way down.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Just to be topical - Earth is Flat, NASA fakes everything and and anything else barmy."

      And don't forget AGW was invented by the Chinese!

  4. Chris G Silver badge

    "The gang's work shows that the particles are formed by deadly cosmic rays fired from supernova explosions."

    I am getting tired of journalists' overuse of the word deadly, cosmic rays are certainly dangerous if you wander into the path of enough of them, but then so are buses, cricket balls and buffalo. They can all be deadly in certain circumstances but generally are not.

    1. spenico

      And rabbits. Rabbits can be deadly too.

  5. Fading Silver badge
    Alien

    Radiation shields to maximum.....

    So they've found spaceship earth's radiation shields - now if they can find the engines and bridge we can really take this baby for a ride......

    1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

      Re: Radiation shields to maximum.....

      which storyline do you prefer for said joyride? the recent one from newish show The Orville or the classic Trek story which seemingly inspired it, For The World Is Hollow and I Have Touched The Sky? Hopefully NOT the one where we all eventually become Cybermen

      1. W4YBO

        Re: Radiation shields to maximum.....

        "which storyline do you prefer for said joyride? the recent one from newish show The Orville or the classic Trek story which seemingly inspired it, For The World Is Hollow and I Have Touched The Sky?"

        Or, looking from an external perspective, Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke.

    2. GX5000
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Radiation shields to maximum.....

      Well we went there EP1 but got lost afterwards...

      Maybe Chekov can get here in his gold lame suit and show us the way...

      (Starlost https://scifihorrorfantasy.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/oro1.jpg)

  6. MT Field
    Thumb Up

    “you can observe a lot just by looking”

    For me this is going down as quote of the year.

    1. Nunyabiznes

      Originally from Yogi Berra (paraphrased), but a good use of the phrase!

      1. Claptrap314 Bronze badge

        Yes. El 'Reg should have pointed this out. I am certain that the scientist in question knew whom he was paraphrasing, and expected his audience to know as well.

  7. PNGuinn Silver badge
    Boffin

    I call Bu**sh&) on this

    "The team used a small shoe-box sized particle telescope – which was built by undergraduate and graduate students at the university and blasted into orbit in 2014 as a CubeSat mission – to measure the flux of energetic solar protons and electrons from the radiation belt over two years."

    So, reading between the lines, they gave the vital bit to a couple of undergrads, who cobbled it all together between hangovers. A bit of kit the size of a shoebox. With no time design and make a lightweight case for the bally thing.

    "Doh - I know, I've got an old shoebox under the bed in my room that I keep my sneakers in - Y'know, I think it may just fit. I was thinking of chucking it out - the neighbours in the flat 2 floors down are beginning to complain ... but you know the old saying "In space no one can hear you gag" ... I'll bring it in tomorrow"

    "Noooo, Luv ... just take the kit home with you and try it there ... If it fits, tape the lid on tight and wrap the whole kaboodle tightly with several layers of clingfilm to make it airtight. Bring it in tomorrow and we present it quick. All agreed?

    "Ai, ai Captain."

    It's well known in scientific circles that the pong from a young girl's sneakers can make a sewer smell foul. Exploding supernovae? I fart - er, I mean, I point a girl's sneakers in their general direction. El Reg had a piece on this very subject but a few months ago.

    >>He'll have to do - we need a nose 'n ferrit icon.

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