Good News for Astronauts
Astronauts may not worry about radiation on future moon missions. Why? Because new research reveals that Earth’s magnetosphere can protect some parts of the moon as well, thus keeping astronauts ‘safe’ from the deadly onslaught of radiation on the lunar surface.
According to the research conducted by Erika Harnett, a UW (University of Washington) assistant research professor of Earth and space sciences, though Earth is largely protected by a magnetic field, there are areas of the moon that would be completely protected by the magnetosphere. This new revelation then suggests that astronauts can carry on safe missions in the lunar surface.
The Earth’s magnetosphere is a shield that protects us from dangerous charged particles from the Sun and elsewhere in the cosmos. Astronomers and scientists assert that understanding this region of space is important for anticipating and protecting against harmful effects of space storms caused by ejections from the Sun.
Importance of the Study
The new research could prove important to future astronomers going to the moon because there are concerns about potential radiation danger for astronauts during long missions on the lunar surface. Solar storms pose a danger for astronauts when particles from the sun due to solar flares hit the Earth at nearly the speed of light. The result can heat oxygen in the Earth’s ionosphere and send it in a hazardous stream toward the moon.
Harnett found that while solar storms can increase the danger from ionosphere particles hitting the moon they also trigger conditions in the magnetosphere that deflect many hazardous solar particles. One of these dangers is in the form of radiation that is harmful for humans.
According to Harnett, the magnetosphere can protect some parts of the moon, and that makes astronauts safe from the hazards of radiation. However, they can’t predict when the solar storm or periods of intense solar flare activity will take place.
“We can’t warn astronauts to take shelter, so they could be vulnerable when the moon is outside the magnetosphere.” – Harnett.
Harnett added, “The articles travel near the speed of light, so when we see them generated on the sun’s surface they will arrive in a few minutes and there is little time to react.”
Other Work by Erika Harnett can be seen here.