betatron acceleration \BAY-tuh-trahn
ak-seh-leh-RAY-shun\ n. Acceleration of
particles by a changing magnetic field.
The changes give particles, such as
electrons, an energy boost and send
them corkscrewing through space at
high speeds. Researchers led by Maha Ashour-Abdalla of UCLA reported
online January 30 in Nature Physics that electrons in a type of space storm
that forms on Earth’s night side appear to build up most of their energy
via betatron acceleration caused by strong, shifting magnetic fields close
to Earth — and not from the rubber band–like snap of outlying terrestrial
magnetic field lines (shown in blue) that first sends the electrons hurling
toward the planet (SN Online: 2/15/11). The study may help scientists
understand auroras and other space weather phenomena.
BODY & BRAIN
Broken neural loops distinguish vegetative states.
Read “Gravely damaged
brains have ‘bottleneck.’ ”
MAT TER & ENERGY
Bird plumage inspires a
new laser design. See “New
laser is from the birds.”
Science Past | FROM THE ISSUE OF JUNE 3, 1961
ATOMIC ENERGY SEEN BES T FOR ROCKET POWER — Atomic
energy is the most feasible source for powering rockets into
the far reaches of outer space. A refined model of a nuclear
power system now being developed could
be used to propel space probes to Mars and
Venus, [said] Dr. Glenn T. Seaborg, chair-
man of the Atomic Energy Commission....
Already it is feasible to put an “atomic
generator” in a satellite whirling around
the earth to supply electric power. This
generator, weighing four pounds, could produce electric-
ity, equivalent to thousands of pounds of batteries, over a
five-year period.... Atomic energy can also be used in a world-
wide network of television satellites or weather stations.
Go behind the scenes of Houston’s Cockrell Butter;y Center.
Go to https://store.hmns.org
Depression may boost
skills. Read “Thinking
better with depression.”
Swim with the world’s largest
;sh at the fourth annual Whale
Shark Festival in Isla Mujeres,
Mexico. More information at
An international team of researchers has discovered a
new mineral buried deep inside a meteorite. Dubbed
“Wassonite” after the UCLA meteorite specialist John
Wasson, the mineral is made of sulfur and titanium and
has a crystal structure unobserved in minerals until now,
NASA scientists and their colleagues announced April 5.
The team found the streak of Wassonite (dark slash in
the X-ray image at left) in a
meteorite recovered in Ant-
arctica in 1969, in which the
mineral’s width spans about
a thousandth the thick-
ness of a sheet of paper. It’s
also surrounded by other
unidentified minerals. 0.2 ;m
Ancient fungi finally found.
See “New fungi the dark
matter of mushrooms.”
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: NASA; LTSHEARS; GEOATLAS/GRAPH-OGRE, ADAPTED B Y T. DUBÉ; JSC/NASA
Science Stats | BREATHE FREELY
The top ;ve cleanest and top ;ve dirtiest U.S. cities — as far as year-round air pollution from particles such as exhaust goes —all lie west
of the Mississippi, according to the American Lung Association.
Top five least and most polluted U.S. cities
1 Cheyenne, Wyo.
2 Santa Fe/Espanola, N.M.
3 Tucson, Ariz.
4a Great Falls, Mont.
4b Honolulu, Hawaii