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NASA May Have Found the 'Space Chernobyl,' Source of Cosmic Radiation

Apr 27, 2016 05:13 AM EDT
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NASA may have found the space counterpart of Chernobyl, which is the cause of cosmic radiation hazardous to astronauts in space.

In a recent report, an online news journal said that NASA's Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) Aircraft might have found the source of radiation in space. That's why it is called the "Chernobyl" of space. 

NASA said that the advanced composition explorer (ACE) have had a huge contribution on the study of radiation in space. "Before the ACE observations, we didn't know if this radiation was created a long time ago and far, far away, or relatively recently and nearby," said Eric Christian of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Cosmic rays are defined as "atomic nuclei with a wide range of energy" by NASA. These high-speed cosmic rays are deemed hazardous to "unprotected" astronauts in space because they are similar to microscopic bullets which are capable of damaging molecules in living cells. This poses a threat to the team of scientists and astronauts who are bound to travel to Mars.

These cosmic rays comes from many different sources, most of them yet to be determined by men. One source is the sun, some thought to have originated from black holes, some originated from outside the solar system but still within our galaxy. Experts believe they came from shockwaves from exploding supernova.

In the recent finding by NASA using the ACE, it is believed that the galactic cosmic rays contain radioactive form of iron called Iron-60 (60Fe).These came from massive stars when they explode then blasted into space by shock waves from the supernova. It is believed to be the source of massive cosmic radiation in space dubbed as the "Chernobyl" of space because of the hazards posed by the concentration of radiation these supernovas emits.

According to CDA News, the life span of cosmic rays can last up to millions of years. And NASA believes that the recent discovery of these radiation means some of them were emitted only a few millions years back, which is fairly recent in terms of space travel.

Because of this recent update, NASA wants to make sure that every astronaut they send to space is properly protected from the hazardous space radiation especially in the upcoming mission to Mars.

 "We have instruments that measure the radiation environment inside the ISS, where the crew are, and even outside the station," said Kerry Lee, a scientist at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The current technology used to protect astronauts in the International Space Station today is not enough to protect the crew when they start their journey towards the red planet.

However, the scientists at NASA are confident that they will be able to built proper protection for the crew before they launch the Journey to Mars. Thibeault, a materials researcher at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, said "We've made progress on reducing and shielding against these energetic particles, but we're still working on finding a material that is a good shield and can act as the primary structure of the spacecraft."

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