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Black mushrooms of Chernobyl. Unidentified life created by radiation

Life can tame even deadly radiation and use its energy for the benefit of new creatures.

Contrary to many expectations, the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant did not turn the surrounding forests into a dead nuclear desert. There is no silver lining, and after the establishment of the exclusion zone, anthropogenic pressure on the local nature sharply decreased. Even in the most damaged areas, plant life quickly recovered; wild boars, bears and wolves returned to the Pripyat valley. Nature comes to life like a fabulous Phoenix, but an invisible suffocating grip of radiation is felt everywhere.

“We walked through the forest, the sky turned into a magnificent sunset,” says Christopher Robinson, an American microbiologist who worked there in 2018. – In a wide meadow, we met horses, about forty. And everyone had yellow eyes, with difficulty distinguishing us, passing by. ” 

In fact, animals massively suffer from cataracts: vision is especially sensitive to radiation, and blindness is the usual result of a long life in the exclusion zone. In local animals, developmental disorders are often found, cancer often occurs. And even more so, it is fatal to stay near the former epicenter of the accident.

Chernobyl

The fourth block, which exploded in 1986, a few months later was sheltered by a protective sarcophagus, which collected other radioactive waste from the site. But already in 1991, when microbiologist Nelly Zhdanova and her colleagues examined these residues with the help of remotely controlled manipulators, life was revealed here. The deadly debris has been populated by thriving communities of black mushrooms. Over the following years, representatives of approximately one hundred species were identified among them. Some of them not only withstand the murderous level of radiation, but are even drawn to it, like plants – to the light.

Survival

High-energy radiation is dangerous for all living things. It easily damages DNA, causing mutations and errors in the code. Heavy particles can break down chemical compounds like cannonballs, leading to the appearance of active radicals that immediately interact with the first neighbor they come across. A sufficiently intense bombardment can cause the radiolysis of water molecules and a shower of random reactions that kill the cell. Despite this, some creatures demonstrate amazing resistance to such an impact.

Unicellular organisms are relatively simple in structure, and it is not so easy to disrupt their metabolism by free radicals, and powerful protein repair tools quickly repair damaged DNA. As a result, fungi can absorb up to 17,000 Grays of radiation energy – many orders of magnitude more safe for humans. Moreover, some of them literally enjoy such a radioactive “rain”.

The famous Evolution Canyon near Mount Carmel in Israel with one slope oriented towards Europe, the other towards Africa. The difference between their illumination reaches 800%, and the “African” slope exposed to the sun is inhabited by fungi that grow better in the presence of radiation. Like those found in Chernobyl, they look black due to the large amounts of melanin. This pigment is able to intercept high-energy particles and dissipate their energy, keeping cells from damage.

Having dissolved such a mushroom cell, under the microscope you can see its “ghost” – the black silhouette of melanin, which accumulates in the cell wall in concentric layers. Mushrooms on the “African” side of the canyon contain three times as much as the inhabitants of the “European” slope. They are rich in many microbes living on the highlands, which in vivo receive up to 500-1000 Gray per year. But even such a decent amount of absorbed radiation for mushrooms is nothing. It is unlikely that all this melanin is produced for protection alone.

Prosperity

Nelly Zhdanova in 1991 demonstrated that the mushrooms taken near the Chernobyl reactor stretch in the direction of the radiation source and grow better in her presence. In 2007, these results were developed by US biologists Arturo Casadevalu and Ekaterina Dadachova. Scientists have shown that under the influence of radiation hundreds of times higher than the natural background, black melanized mushrooms (Cladosporium sphaerospermum, Wangiella dermatitidis and Cryptococcus neoformans) absorb carbon from the nutrient medium three times more intensively. At the same time, mutant albino mushrooms, incapable of producing melanin, transferred the radiation easily, but grew at the usual pace.

Mushrooms

It is worth saying that melanin can be present in cells in slightly different chemical configurations. Its main form in humans is eumelanin, it protects the skin from ultraviolet radiation and gives it a brown-black color. The red color of the lips and nipples is determined by the presence of pheomelanin. And it is pheomelanin that produces fungal cells under the influence of radiation, although in such quantities it looks completely black.

The transition from eu to pheomelanin is accompanied by increased electron transfer from NADP to ferricyanide – this is one of the first steps in glucose biosynthesis. It is not surprising that, according to some assumptions, such fungi are capable of carrying out reactions similar to photosynthesis, but instead of light they use the energy of radioactive radiation. This ability allows them to survive and thrive where more complex and fastidious organisms die.

Large amounts of highly melanized fungal spores are found in sediments of the early Cretaceous period. In that era, many animals and plants died out: “This period coincides with the transition through the“ magnetic zero ”and the temporary loss of the“ geomagnetic shield ”that protects the Earth from radiation,” writes Ekaterina Dadachova. Such a situation could not take advantage of the mushrooms, radiotrophs. Sooner or later, we will take advantage of this.

Application

The use of melanin to utilize radiation energy is just a hypothesis. However, research continues, the benefit of the radiotrophs can not be called something exotic. In conditions of a lack of resources and sufficient radiation, some common mushrooms can enhance the synthesis of melanin and show the ability to “eat radiation.” For example, the above C. sphaerospermum and W. dermatitidis are widespread soil organisms, while C. neoformans sometimes infect humans, causing infectious cryptococcosis.

Source: Popmech

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Planet Earth

A bright fireball exploded over Armenia

Fireball over the sky of Armenia / Zohrap Yeganyan

Yesterday, a very bright fireball exploded over Armenia. This was announced by the head of the meteorological forecast department of the Hydrometeorological Center Gagik Surenyan on Facebook. The magnitude (brilliance) of a celestial body, which entered the Earth’s atmosphere with great speed, is at least 12.

Photo Source: Getty Image

On the evening of May 27, local residents saw a luminous ball flying from the sky, when it collided with the ground, an outbreak occurred.

Users of social networks began to share their guesses, but they officially gave a comment at the  Hydrometeorological Center  only the next day:

“Yesterday’s fall of a large meteorite in the Hrazdan  -Hankavan section  ,” Gagik Surenyan wrote, head of the meteorological forecast department of the Hydrometeorological Center and posted a video showing the meteorite.

Those who also saw the meteorite offered to go to the site of the fall of the celestial body and “collect the pieces”, others reproached the authorities and scientists for silence, when everyone discussed the event, no one began to confirm to people that the luminous ball was a meteorite.

“A meteorite is the final act of this nightmare year,” users of social networks wrote a comment on the video, with sad irony.

The camera was installed in the vicinity of Hrazdan and was directed towards the village of Hankavan.

“The meteorite, judging by the records studied, was very large and entered at great speed the atmosphere of the planet, where it burned at an altitude of several kilometers. The risk that parts of this fireball could reach Earth is small, and the likelihood that they can be somehow found tends to zero, including the woodland and the fact that, when burned, meteors and fireballs crumble, as a rule, for particles up to several millimeters in size,” astrophysicist R. Martirosyan said.

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Planet Earth

Powerful sprites over Kansas were visible to the naked eye

Have you ever seen sprites? They say that this is impossible. Strange and fleeting forms of Red Lightning materialize over thunderclouds, usually disappearing in less time than it takes to blink. However, storm hunter Michael Havan had no problems seeing them on May 23rd.

“The extremely bright jellyfish sprites were easily visible to the naked eye at dusk!” Says Gavin. “This is one of the brightest shots I’ve captured with my modified Canon T3i.”

Gavin saw this sight from Northwest Kansas. “Clear skies provided fantastic views of the MCS (mesoscale convective system) moving through Nebraska almost 100 miles from us,” he says. “I was not the only one who saw them.” There have been reports that people also saw sprites from Interstate 70. “

The storm lasted so long that Gavin managed to attach an 85mm lens to his camera for several close-up shots. “Because I had an image of the same area without a sprite from a few seconds earlier, I was able to subtract the sky (stars, air glow, etc.) to take a photo of the structure of the sprite without any distractions.

A solar minimum can stimulate sprites. During the low phase of the solar cycle — now occurring — cosmic rays from deep space penetrate the inner solar system relatively unhindered due to the weakening of the Sun’s magnetic field. 

Some models claim that cosmic rays help sprites get started by creating conductive paths in the atmosphere.

By the way:

Today, May 25, 2020, the level of cosmic rays crashing onto the Earth, reached its maximum levels, increasing today by 10.4% of average values.

Cosmic rays 

The magnetic field of the sun is weak, which allows additional cosmic rays to penetrate the solar system. Neutron counts from the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory of the University of Oulu show that cosmic rays reaching Earth in 2020 are close to the peak of the space age.

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Planet Earth

A surge in volcanic activity threatens the Earth with a new Ice Age

Over the past few days, we have witnessed a turbulent global volcanic surge in activity. He sends us all signs that the Great Solar Minimum is approaching.

The Japanese meteorological satellite HIMAWARI-8 recorded two powerful eruptions on May 16, both of which occurred in Indonesia.

The first took place in IBU – a relatively new volcano with only 3 noticeable eruptions; in 1911, 1998 and 2008 – and was confirmed by Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), which warned that the ash plume rises to about 13.7 km.

The second high-level eruption occurred just a few hours later on Semera – a very active volcano with an eruptive history; the first happened in 1818, the most recent in 2014.

As with IBU, the Semeru eruption was confirmed by both HIMAWARI-8 and VAAC Darwin, the latter confirming the generation of a “dark ash plume that reached a height of 14 km.

In addition, active lava flows remain active on the southeastern flank of Semeru, currently about 1.5 km long (as of the morning of May 18).

Direct cooling effect

These high-level eruptions are notable for the fact that solid particles are thrown to a height of over 10 km – and into the stratosphere – are often delayed, where they have a direct cooling effect on the planet.

Volcanic eruptions are one of the key factors pushing the Earth toward its next round of global cooling, with their worldwide surge associated with low solar activity, coronal holes, a diminishing magnetosphere and the influx of cosmic rays penetrating silica-rich magma.

In addition to Indonesia, Icelandic volcanoes have intensified, and it is this high-mountain volcanic region of the world that is believed to be home to the next “big eruption” – one that will plunge the whole world into the new Ice Age almost instantly.

Katla is such a volcano here and it shows signs of activity, since a significant gas output has been recorded over the past few days. 

In addition, seismic activity under a large ice volcano has also increased, and this activity is probably caused by injections of new magma entering the chamber.

Icelandic authorities are aware of the danger posed by the next Katla eruption, and a delegation of volcanologists regularly meets with the Icelandic parliament to discuss how to respond in the event of an eruption, the likelihood of which is simply a matter of when, not if.

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