Micro Files

<strong>Invisible shield above Earth protects the planet from &ldquo;killer electrons&rdquo;</strong>

According to <em>Science Daily</em>, a team led by the scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder has discovered an invisible shield some 7,200 miles above Earth that blocks so-called &ldquo;killer electrons,&rdquo; which whip around the planet at near-lightspeed and have been known to threaten astronauts, fry satellites, and damage space systems during intense solar storms.

The barrier, discovered in the Van Allen radiation belts, are two doughnut-shaped rings above Earth that are filled with high-energy electrons and protons, said distinguished professor Daniel Baker, director of CU-Boulder&rsquo;s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. The belts are held in place by Earth&rsquo;s magnetic field.

One of the most viable explanations the group is looking into is that the giant cloud of cold, electrically charged gas called the plasmasphere, begins about 600 miles above Earth and stretches thousands of miles into the outer Van Allen belt. It is scattering the electrons at the boundary with low frequency, electromagnetic waves that create a plasmapheric &ldquo;hiss,&rdquo; Baker said.&nbsp;



<strong>DNA strong enough to survive entry to Earth&rsquo;s atmosphere</strong>

Researchers from the University of Zurich (UZH) Institute of Astronomy have found that small amounts of DNA are capable of surviving entry into Earth&rsquo;s atmosphere, <em>Science Daily</em> reports.

The experiment called DARE (DNA atmospheric re-entry experiment) resulted from a spontaneous idea from UZH scientists Dr. Cora Thiel and Prof. Oliver Ullrich who were conducting experiments on the TEXUS-49 mission to study the role of gravity in the regulation of gene expression in human cells using remote-controlled hardware inside the rocket&rsquo;s payload.

The experiment resulted in unexpected results that show the stability of DNA under space conditions also needs to be factored into the interpretation of results in the search for extraterrestrial life: &ldquo;The results show that it is by no means unlikely that, despite all the safety precautions, space ships could also carry terrestrial DNA to their landing site. We need to have this under control in the search for extraterrestrial life,&rdquo; Ullrich said.


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