May 9 (UPI) -- Researchers in Europe have replicated space radiation in the lab. The breakthrough will enable efforts to better protect astronauts and scientific instruments in space. Scientists created the man-made space radiation using laser-plasma-based accelerators.
Proof-of-concept tests were conducted in the laboratories of several European research universities. The research -- detailed in the journal Scientific Reports -- was funded by the European Space Agency.
"Space radiation is a danger to satellite electronics as well as manned space travel," Bernhard Hidding, a professor of physics at the University of Strathclyde, said in a news release. "Earth's magnetic core shields us from dangerous particles but space has no such protection."
Testing radiation-protection technologies in space is difficult and expensive, but most radiation-generation devices used in the lab produce an energy distribution unlike the radiation traveling through space.
"By using laser-plasma-accelerators, however, we were able to produce particle flux which more closely resembled conditions in space," Hidding said.
As laser-plasma accelerator technology improves, researchers expect to recreate conditions present within the radiation belts surrounding distant planets like Jupiter and Saturn.
"These planets have much stronger magnetic fields, generating far higher energy electrons than that of Earth," Hidding said, "but exploratory missions in these harsh radiation environments have a high scientific priority, such as investigating the possibility of water on the Jupiter moon Io."