ESA: Shocking recipe for making killer electrons

Find out the latest thinking about our universe.
User avatar
bystander
Apathetic Retiree
Posts: 20260
Joined: Mon Aug 28, 2006 2:06 pm
Location: Oklahoma

ESA: Shocking recipe for making killer electrons

Post by bystander » Thu Mar 11, 2010 3:38 pm

Shocking recipe for making killer electrons
ESA - 2010 March 11
Take a bunch of fast-moving electrons, place them in orbit and then hit them with the shock waves from a solar storm. What do you get? Killer electrons. That’s the shocking recipe revealed by ESA’s Cluster mission.

Killer electrons are highly energetic particles trapped in Earth's outer radiation belt, which extends from 12 000 km to 64 000 km above the planet’s surface. During solar storms their number grows at least ten times and they can be dislodged, posing a threat to satellites. As the name suggests, killer electrons are energetic enough to penetrate satellite shielding and cause microscopic lightning strikes. If these electrical discharges take place in vital components, the satellite can be damaged or even rendered inoperable.