Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Radiation Storm Forecasts Via SOHO

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Video: SOHO's Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT) caught this image of a coronal mass ejection. The green static represents the particles that the solar storm projects into space. Credit: NASA.


Despite the fact that the majority of the planets, moons and dwarf planets (sorry Pluto) lack a significant atmosphere, future colonists may still tune in to the latest forecast regarding upcoming storms.

But instead of storms involving weather, it will be radiation storms that they will be worrying about, a concern that the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) may help us predict.

(NASA) Explosive events on the sun can blast particles to high speeds, causing intense radiation storms that can disable spacecraft and cause radiation sickness or cancer in unprotected astronauts. Advance warning of radiation storms could give astronauts time to take cover and allow satellite operators to take protective measures.

Scientists are now testing a new method that could do just that. The method uses data from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) to predict, in real-time, the approach and intensity of hazardous solar particles that would threaten astronauts and technology in space. [...]

The new forecasting method calculates the appearance and intensity of solar ion events by measuring these relativistic (near light-speed) electrons. Extreme solar events create the relativistic electrons, which have characteristics that can be exploited to predict the time and intensity of later arriving ions, predominantly protons with energies more harmful to humans.


Predicting when these solar storms could easily determine the difference between a live astronaut and a dead one, which may make future solar weathermen one of the most important jobs in the solar system.

In order to thrive off world, future colonists may have to be content constructing lunar bases within magnetic safe havens until scientists can create artificial ones on their own.

Update: Corrected video description above. Also corrected title link above.




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