Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Earth's Magnetic Field: A Shield For Lunar Astronauts?

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After a "brief" delay, humanity will once again send a few brave souls to visit the lunar world that orbits our home planet. However if we are going to live upon that barren world, humanity will have to find a way to deal with the cosmic radiation that can bombard the lunar surface.

While scientists have yet to create a portable magnetic field to shield future explorers, they are looking at the possibility of "borrowing Earth's" to protect lunar astronauts.

(Physorg.com) Earth is largely protected by its magnetic field, or magnetosphere, but new University of Washington research shows that some parts of the moon also are protected by the magnetosphere for seven days during the 28-day orbit around Earth.

"We found that there were areas of the moon that would be completely protected by the magnetosphere and other areas that are not protected at all," said Erika Harnett, a UW assistant research professor of Earth and space sciences.

While a week of protection is better than nothing, scientists may want to consider landing in and establishing bases within magnetic safe havens on the lunar surface.

Astronauts could then use the "week of protection" to conduct scientific experiments or (even better) explore for potential resources on the moon (such as helium-3).

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You can either visit the stars or watch them from afar.

But if you choose the former, you'll definitely get a better view.

~Darnell Clayton, 2007

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