Researchers a Step Closer to Finding Cosmic Ray Origins

The origin of cosmic rays in the universe has confounded scientists for decades. But a study by researchers using data from the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole reveals new information that may help unravel the longstanding mystery of exactly how and where these "rays" (they are actually high-energy particles) are produced.

Cosmic rays can damage electronics on Earth, as well as human DNA, putting astronauts in space especially at risk.

The research, which draws on data collected by IceTop, the IceCube Observatory's surface array of detectors, is published online in Physical Review D, a leading journal in elementary particle physics.

University of Delaware physicist Bakhtiyar Ruzybayev is the study's corresponding author. UD scientists were the lead group for the construction of IceTop with support from the National Science Foundation and coordination by the project office at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The more scientists learn about the energy spectrum and chemical composition of cosmic rays, the closer humanity will come to uncovering where these energetic particles originate.

Cosmic rays are known to reach energies above 100 billion giga-electron volts (1011 GeV). The data reported in this latest paper cover the energy range from 1.6 times 106 GeV to 109 GeV.

Researchers are particularly interested in identifying cosmic rays in this interval because the transition from cosmic rays produced in the Milky Way Galaxy to "extragalactic" cosmic rays, produced outside our galaxy, is expected to occur in this energy range.

Exploding stars called supernovae are among the sources of cosmic rays here in the Milky Way, while distant objects such as collapsing massive stars and active galactic nuclei far from the Milky Way are believed to produce the highest energy particles in nature.

As Ruzybayev points out, the cosmic-ray energy spectrum does not follow a simple power law between the "knee" around 4 PeV (peta-electron volts) and the "ankle" around 4 EeV (exa-electron volts), as previously thought, but exhibits features like hardening around 20 PeV and steepening around 130 PeV.

"The spectrum steepens at the 'knee,' which is generally interpreted as the beginning of the end of the galactic population. Below the knee, cosmic rays are galactic in origin, while above that energy, particles from more distant regions in our universe become more and more likely," Ruzybayev explained. "These measurements provide new constraints that must be satisfied by any models that try to explain the acceleration and propagation of cosmic rays."


IceTop consists of 81 stations in its final configuration, covering an area of one square kilometer on the South Pole surface above the detectors of IceCube, which are buried over a mile deep in the ice. The analysis presented in this article was performed using data taken from June 2010 to May 2011, when the array consisted of only 73 stations.

The IceCube collaboration includes nearly 250 people from 39 research institutions in 11 countries, including the University of Delaware.

Source:Science Daily


New Camera Captures Images Moving Faster Than Sound

Researchers have designed a new digital streak camera that captures high-resolution images of projectiles travelling up to 3,350 m/s - 10 times the speed of sound.

The system was designed to replace the outdated film-based streak cameras , researchers said. 

Film-based streak photography records the motion of an object as it passes in front of lens, while the film moves behind a vertical slit aperture during the exposure. The result is a long, continuous composite image of the object. However, the transition from film to digital has changed the photography industry, and the specialized film required for streak photography is no longer being manufactured.

Source: India Times


Scientists Visualize How Cancer Chromosome Abnormalities Form in Living Cells


For the first time, scientists have directly observed events that lead to the formation of a chromosome abnormality that is often found in cancer cells. The abnormality, called a translocation, occurs when part of a chromosome breaks off and becomes attached to another chromosome. The results of this study, conducted by scientists at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, appeared Aug. 9, 2013, in the journal Science.

Chromosomes are thread-like structures inside cells that carry genes and function in heredity. Human chromosomes each contain a single piece of DNA, with the genes arranged in a linear fashion along its length.

Chromosome translocations have been found in almost all cancer cells, and it has long been known that translocations can play a role in cancer development. However, despite many years of research, just exactly how translocations form in a cell has remained a mystery. To better understand this process, the researchers created an experimental system in which they induced, in a controlled fashion, breaks in the DNA of different chromosomes in living cells. Using sophisticated imaging technology, they were then able to watch as the broken ends of the chromosomes were reattached correctly or incorrectly inside the cells.

Translocations are very rare events, and the scientists' ability to visualize their occurrence in real time was made possible by recently available technology at NCI that enables investigators to observe changes in thousands of cells over long time periods. "Our ability to see this fundamental process in cancer formation was possible only because of access to revolutionary imaging technology," said the study's senior author, Tom Misteli, Ph.D., Laboratory of Receptor Biology and Gene Expression, Center for Cancer Research, NCI.


The scientists involved with this study were able to demonstrate that translocations can occur within hours of DNA breaks and that their formation is independent of when the breaks happen during the cell division cycle. Cells have built-in repair mechanisms that can fix most DNA breaks, but translocations occasionally occur.

To explore the role of DNA repair in translocation formation, the researchers inhibited key components of the DNA damage response machinery within cells and monitored the effects on the repair of DNA breaks and translocation formation. They found that inhibition of one component of DNA damage response machinery, a protein called DNAPK-kinase, increased the occurrence of translocations almost 10-fold. The scientists also determined that translocations formed preferentially between pre-positioned genes.

"These observations have allowed us to formulate a time and space framework for elucidating the mechanisms involved in the formation of chromosome translocations," said Vassilis Roukos, Ph.D., NCI, and lead scientist of the study.

"We can now finally begin to really probe how these fundamental features of cancer cells form," Misteli added.

This research was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the NCI's Center for Cancer Research.

Source: Science Daily


Global Warming Has Increased Monthly Heat Records Worldwide by a Factor of Five, Study Finds




Monthly temperature extremes have become much more frequent, as measurements from around the world indicate. On average, there are now five times as many record-breaking hot months worldwide than could be expected without long-term global warming, shows a study now published in Climatic Change. In parts of Europe, Africa and southern Asia the number of monthly records has increased even by a factor of ten. 80 percent of observed monthly records would not have occurred without human influence on climate, concludes the authors-team of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Complutense University of Madrid.

"The last decade brought unprecedented heat waves; for instance in the US in 2012, in Russia in 2010, in Australia in 2009, and in Europe in 2003," lead-author Dim Coumou says. "Heat extremes are causing many deaths, major forest fires, and harvest losses – societies and ecosystems are not adapted to ever new record-breaking temperatures." The new study relies on 131 years of monthly temperature data for more than 12,000 grid points around the world, provided by NASA. Comprehensive analysis reveals the increase in records.

The researchers developed a robust statistical model that explains the surge in the number of records to be a consequence of the long-term global warming trend. That surge has been particularly steep over the last 40 years, due to a steep global-warming trend over this period. Superimposed on this long-term rise, the data show the effect of natural variability, with especially high numbers of heat records during years with El Niño events. This natural variability, however, does not explain the overall development of record events, found the researchers.

Natural variability does not explain the overall development of record events

If global warming continues, the study projects that the number of new monthly records will be 12 times as high in 30 years as it would be without climate change. "Now this doesn't mean there will be 12 times more hot summers in Europe than today – it actually is worse," Coumou points out. For the new records set in the 2040s will not just be hot by today's standards. "To count as new records, they actually have to beat heat records set in the 2020s and 2030s, which will already be hotter than anything we have experienced to date," explains Coumou. "And this is just the global average – in some continental regions, the increase in new records will be even greater."

"Statistics alone cannot tell us what the cause of any single heat wave is, but they show a large and systematic increase in the number of heat records due to global warming," says Stefan Rahmstorf, a co-author of the study and co-chair of PIK's research domain Earth System Analysis. "Today, this increase is already so large that by far most monthly heat records are due to climate change. The science is clear that only a small fraction would have occurred naturally.


Source: Science Daily




Sea Level Rise Of One Meter Within 100 Years

New research indicates that the ocean could rise in the next 100 years to a meter higher than the current sea level – which is three times higher than predictions from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC.

The groundbreaking new results from an international collaboration between researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen, England and Finland are published in the scientific journal Climate Dynamics.

According to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change the global climate in the coming century will be 2-4 degrees warmer than today, but the ocean is much slower to warm up than the air and the large ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica are also slower to melt. The great uncertainty in the calculation of the future rise in the sea level lies in the uncertainty over how quickly the ice sheets on land will melt and flow out to sea. The model predictions of the melting of the ice sheets are the basis for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's predictions for the rise in sea level are not capable of showing the rapid changes observed in recent years. The new research has therefore taken a different approach.

Looking at the direct correlation

"Instead of making calculations based on what one believes will happen with the melting of the ice sheets we have made calculations based on what has actually happened in the past. We have looked at the direct relationship between the global temperature and the sea level 2000 years into the past", explains Aslak Grinsted, who is a geophysicist at the Centre for Ice and Climate at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen.

With the help of annual growth rings of trees and analysis from ice core borings researchers have been able to calculate the temperature for the global climate 2000 years back in time. For around 300 years the sea level has been closely observed in several places around the world and in addition to that there is historical knowledge of the sea level of the past in different places in the world.

By linking the two sets of information together Aslak Grinsted could see the relationship between temperature and sea level. For example, in the Middle Ages around 12th century there was a warm period where the sea level was approximately 20 cm higher than today and in the 18th century there was the 'little ice age', where the sea level was approximately 25 cm lower than it is today.

A rise in sea level in the future as in the past

Assuming that the climate in the coming century will be three degrees warmer, the new model predictions indicate that the ocean will rise between 0,9 and 1,3 meters. To rise so much so quickly means that the ice sheets will melt much faster than previously believed. But it has already been observed that the ice sheets react quicker to increases in temperature than experts thought just a few years ago. And studies from the ice age show that ice sheets can melt quickly. When the ice age ended 11.700 years ago, the ice sheets melted so quickly that sea level rose 11 millimeters per year – equivalent to a meter in 100 years. In the current situation with global warming, Aslak Grinsted believes, that the sea level will rise with the same speed – that is to say a meter in the span of the next 100 years

Source: Science Daily