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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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ScienceShot: A Giant Particle Accelerator in the Sky
13 April 2010 7:01 pm
High above your head, a particle accelerator may be forming. Under the right conditions, thunderstorms 40 kilometers above Earth may drive narrow beams of electrons to near light speeds, researchers will report tomorrow at the Royal Astronomical Society meeting in Glasgow, United Kingdom. The recipe for such strange weather: mix lightning with high-energy particles from space called cosmic rays. The cosmic rays knock electrons off of atmospheric air molecules, while the lightning forces the electrons upward along electric fields. These electron beams may only be a small fraction as powerful as those produced by the Large Hadron Collider, but they produce plenty of radio waves that the research team detected after seeing flickering, oddly-shaped lightning bolts called sprites (inset). Eventually, the accelerated electrons become trapped in the Earth's radiation belts, where they can interfere with satellite communications and navigation.