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How do cosmic rays affect DNA?

Cosmic raysCharged atomic particles moving in space with very high energies (the particles travel close to the speed of light); most originate beyond the solar system, but some of low energy are produced in solar flares. can seriously damage DNA. If DNA damage cannot be repaired by the cell, the cell could die. If the damage is copied into more cells, then a mutation could occur. Exposure to large amounts of cosmic rays could increase the risks for cancer, cataracts and neurological disorders. Long term exposure to cosmic rays, or short intense bursts, could affect the evolution of life on Earth.

NASA Principal Investigator: Dave McComas
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Last Updated: 6 June 2014
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