We need to get back to the moon fast before solar storms

We need to get back to the moon fast before solar storms

As the next human missions to the moon become clearer, astronomers begin to worry about solar storms. The sun is expected to be in operation very soon, which will be crucial for the astronauts.

The sun has a rhythm of its own. Depending on the tempo of the different cycles, it alternates between more or less dense periods of activity, all ending here and there with a few solar storms, the most violent of which are considered to be intense and unpredictable. But at a time when seeing humans on the moon or on Mars is becoming more and more credible, it is time to worry about its events having serious repercussions.

A study was published Solar Physics May 20, 2021 confirms for the first time that these extraordinary storms are in fact unpredictable. Unfortunately, they fall right Next human lunar missions.

Researchers at the University of Reading near London have analyzed 150 years of observational data from the sun. Over the course of a century and a half, the magnetic field has brought about significant changes in our galaxy, especially in cycles (known) lasting an average of eleven years. In each of these cycles, there is a period of peak activity with a significant number Sunny places Visible on the surface, a period of calm.

Solar activity peaks in April 2014 (left) and December 2019 (right). // Source: NASA / SDO

« We have a lot of observations about small incidents, Lead author Matthew Owens tells Numerama. We can clearly see how they follow the 11 year cycles. But for more severe cases, observations are by definition rare. »

We will be present In Cycle 25 from the end of 2019. This is the second phase of the cycle, so between 2025 and 2030, we are more likely to have a large-scale solar storm.

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Protect yourself from the sun

Solutions to protect against radiation exist or are being considered. One way is to study storms, determine the expected intensity, and build objects that can survive this level of magnetic flux. It is expensive in terms of research for construction, but there is no need to predict the nature of the sun.

Would be another solutionMonitor coronal mass discharge (EMC) It takes four days to reach Earth, which gives it time to defend itself. But their strength depends on the Sun’s internal magnetic field, and can only be measured when it explodes on Earth.

Finally, the final solution is simple to implement: it involves being more careful during certain periods of the solar cycle. As for the weird cycles, the sun is at its maximum in the second half, and even for them it is a dangerous start. On the other hand, it may apply more intensive apurvavumaya events?

The rarity of these events creates a problem. Extreme events that fortunately (fortunately) cause problems for which reliable statistics cannot be established. The eruption of 1859 Especially known as the akramasaktamanenn. There was a storm in 1921 that would have occurred during a period of quiet solar activity. In 2003 and later in 2011 a level exploded that was rarely reached. Very few. ” This would require hundreds of years of observation “, Say the authors of the study. ” even though, Matthew Owens clarifies, nFrom this we were able to use statistical models to find out when these events are likely to occur. In short, they are more likely on longer cycles.. »

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Skin cancer and short circuit

According to their forecast, we are in a long cycle favorable for the emergence of major events before the end of 2020. In other words, when humans arrive on the moon according to the schedule of the Artemis program. The consequences can be dramatic.

A sunspot observed by GREGOR. // Source: KIS

The first problem affects the astronauts themselves. While in space, they are already subject to significant amounts of radiation, which is much higher than what Earth can tolerate. Even if the damage is much less than the International Space Station, due to the protection of the Earth’s magnetic field allows the still. This will not happen on the moon, and will significantly increase the risk of cancer for these explorers.

Another concern, perhaps even more serious: a solar storm can cause damage to electrical equipment. Thus, the eruption of 1859 became known as the Carrington event (because it was studied by astronomer Richard Carrington) and caused electric shocks and fires of electric origin among telegraph operators. Today’s electrical equipment importantly, the damage is much greater than, for example, in all matters relating to the Guidelines Network satellite systems. Lots of very important equipment in the middle of a space mission! ” Solar cycles have never been a problem during the last manned missions to the moon, Deplore Matthew Owens. Suddenly, a huge solar storm struck between Apollo 16 and 17 missions.. »

Should study predictions for future humanitarian missions be taken into account? ” Hard to say, The researcher agrees. Our predictions are completely experiential, and the physics of the sun are still very unknown, which will amaze us. Our advice is to avoid big breakouts and overtime. For example between 2026 and 2030. But in any case, there is no zero risk! »

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Currently, there are two missions to monitor the sun: Parker probe, Solar Orbiter. Both can improve our knowledge of our star and help us better predict future behavior.

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