Researchers find space radiation is increasingly more hazardous

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It might sound like something from a science fiction plot – astronauts traveling into deep space being bombarded by cosmic rays – but radiation exposure is science fact. As future missions look to travel back to the moon or even to Mars, new research from the University of New Hampshire's Space Science Center cautions that the exposure to radiation is much higher than previously thought and could have serious implications on both astronauts and satellite technology.

"The radiation dose rates from measurements obtained over the last four years exceeded trends from previous solar cycles by at least 30 percent, showing that the radiation environment is getting far more intense," said Nathan Schwadron, professor of physics and lead author of the study. "These particle radiation conditions present important environmental factors for travel and , and must be carefully studied and accounted for in the planning and design of future missions to the moon, Mars, asteroids and beyond."

In their study, recently published in the journal Space Weather, the researchers found that large fluxes in Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCR) are rising faster and are on path to exceed any other recorded time in the space age. They also point out that one of the most significant Solar Energetic Particle (SEP) events happened in September 2017 releasing large doses of radiation that could pose significant risk to both humans and satellites. Unshielded astronauts could experience acute effects like or more serious long-term health issues like cancer and organ damage, including to the heart, brain, and central nervous system.

In 2014, Schwadron and his team predicted around a 20 percent increase in radiation dose rates from one to the next. Four years later, their newest research shows current conditions exceed their predictions by about 10 percent, showing the radiation environment is worsening even more than expected.

"We now know that the radiation environment of deep space that we could send human crews into at this point is quite different compared to that of previous crewed missions to the moon," says Schwadron.

The authors used data from CRaTER on NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Lunar observations (and other space-based observations) show that GCR radiation doses are rising faster than previously thought. Researchers point to the abnormally long period of the recent quieting of solar activity. In contrast, an active sun has frequent sunspots, which can intensify the sun's magnetic field. That magnetic field is then dragged out through the solar system by the solar wind and deflects away from the solar system – and from any astronauts in transit.

For most of the space age, the sun's activity ebbed and flowed like clockwork in 11-year cycles, with six- to eight-year lulls in activity, called solar minimum, followed by two- to three-year periods when the sun is more active. However, starting around 2006, scientists observed the longest solar minimum and weakest solar activity observed during the space age.

Despite this overall reduction, the September 2017 solar eruptions produced episodes of significant Solar Particle Events and associated caused by particle acceleration by successive, magnetically well-connected coronal mass ejections. The researchers conclude that the continues to pose significant hazards associated both with historically large galactic cosmic ray fluxes and large but isolated SEP events, which still challenge space weather prediction capabilities.

Explore further

Cosmic rays threaten future deep-space astronaut missions

More information: N. A. Schwadron et al. Update on the worsening particle radiation environment observed by CRaTER and implications for future human deep-space exploration, Space Weather (2018). DOI: 10.1002/2017SW001803
Citation: Researchers find space radiation is increasingly more hazardous (2018, March 15) retrieved 22 September 2019 from
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Mar 15, 2018
"For most of the space age, the sun's activity ebbed and flowed like clockwork in 11-year cycles, with six- to eight-year lulls in activity, called solar minimum, followed by two- to three-year periods when the sun is more active. However, starting around 2006, scientists observed the longest solar minimum and weakest solar activity observed during the space age."

...........but of course the WARMER/CHANGER accolytes living here in the Comments section will deny any of this has anything to do with climate conditions on planet Earth, that this little speck of dust is somehow immune to conditions by that huge body we orbit.

Mar 15, 2018
Did I read that right..? They got 4 full years, one being a leap year if my calculations are correct, of observation in on this one?! Such overwhelming data to compare to the qualitatively equal, if not outright superior moving backward in time, data from the years surrounding when we landed on the moon! Ha! Eat that space Nazis! I bet now you would've just surrendered instead of heading into ultra hostile nightmare space times triplicate...

Mar 15, 2018
Sorry Benni tht reality is sych a bummer for you. Perhaps your next reincarnation will be improved enough to stay awake in school?

Omni, hope you had a happy Pi Day. Mine was deli cheesecake. Okay, I guess but not as good as my Wife's!
Not sure what or who you were ranting against or for?

A few weeks of exposure to micro-gravity and radiation are obviously survivable.

But? If you want to do long-term voyages of months and years, outside the Earth's Magnetosphere and away from one-gravity? Is whole different kettle of odorous fishsticks.

There is no available means of duplicating gravitational attraction on a small, local, human-scale. The comicbook fantasists never learned the difference between Mass Attraction and centripetal acceleration.
As for the radiation problem? One word "Accumulative". Yep, every time you, your vessel, your physical shielding takes a hit? It don't go away, nowhere, nohow.

- contd -

Mar 15, 2018
- contd -

and the cascade effect of continuous exposure to any radiation continuously builds up. That's exactly the same as cooking on your stovetop or in a microwave. The energy accumulates.

Gold foil is probably the most efficient and cost-effective to launch into orbit. However the buying price is artificially subsidized for political stability. To to stroke the delicate sensibilities of the Lazy Faeries of the Corporate State. Who never learned the difference between 'price' & 'value'.

Launching lead plate or bulk water for shielding would be horrendously expensive with present technology.

I suggested we put a fleet of robot/drones/waldoes into orbit to collect the debris floating around the System And bootstrap enough water-ices for temporary, shielding. As it accumulates radioactive by-products it could then be removed to industrial use.

While developing an energy shield that will, at least, deflect all but visible light.

Mar 15, 2018
As for the radiation problem? One word "Accumulative".
.........No, it's CUMULATIVE, drop the first two letters. You might make a bit more of an endeavor to learn basic linguistics we use in my field of specialty.

Mar 15, 2018
Is this due to global climate change? Haha!

Mar 16, 2018
Benni, I am acc-cutely em-bare-assed to have made such an obvious mistake in word usage. thank you for correcting my error.

mack, we definetly need some better designation to replace the terms Dark Matter, Blackhole, etc;. As Benni pointed out, it does 'matter' the words we select.

Now gramps, considering all the superstitious nonsense you gave espoused in these comments? How can you morally justify deriding anyone else's nonsense? When you insist that any fantasy belief system is real? You are enabling and accepting all other imagined improbabilities.

Mar 16, 2018
acc-cutely "c", no hyphen.......I take it English is not your mother tongue? Can you solve Differential Equations?

Mar 17, 2018
Benni, look up the word 'paronomasia'.

Oops, you just tripped over your own 'rock'!

Mar 17, 2018
So mack, you are saying that crankery, woo and bogus denier quakery fail at "generating jobs, grants and money?"

Come on now! The LEO Bunco teams are giddy at every opportunity to expropriated the funds illicitly accumulated by con artists of all stripes.

And let no one claim these fraudsters have failed to produce any physical items.

Brass Spirit Horns, up-the-sleeve card-dealing mechanisms, Orgone Boxes.

Or any new technology. Odyllic detectors, apegy generators, ghost photography with strategically placed pinholes to fog the film.

All proud accomplishments of those saintly charlatans persecuted by Mainstream Science and rejected by rigorous Academic Standards.

Worst ()liverwurst?), worst of all! Persnickety Patent Office bureaucrats. Who scorn the Wisdom of the Ages from the Geniuses-in-their own-minds. The PO's selfish demands that you lot show them an actual, working prototype of your claimed perpetual-motion devices.

The evil regulatory bastards!

Mar 18, 2018
I can't believe commentators here don't understand the difference between plain old short wave radiation from the Sun, and the solar particle events (SPE). The former is what is relevant to climate change, the latter is relevant to space radiation risk, SPE are an utterly insignificant effect on the Earth energy budget. So the climate skeptics are once again either ignorant or deceptive, or just really obsessed with this mythical climate grant money gravy train.

Mar 18, 2018
Benni, look up the word 'paronomasia'.

Oops, you just tripped over your own 'rock'!

Have you ever seen a Differential Equation you could solve? Or maybe I should have first asked the most obvious question, would you recognize one if you saw it? Jonesy told us he had DEs in Algebra class in high school, maybe you did too?

Mar 18, 2018
SPE are an utterly insignificant effect on the Earth energy budget

Energy budget of Earth is driven by by founder of cold fusion Stephen Jones in 1986 already.

ok, I get it. You are one of the crackpots. really, cold fusion? dark matter?

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