(Image: Sun’s Corona in false color, Credit: Space Environment Center/NOAA via Lunar.org)
Imagine starting your day with a hot cup of luna coffee grown on the surface of Earth’s natural satellite, the Moon. As you head out of your bio home to fix another broken water pipe outside the Tycho observatory, you notice that the solar weatherman is on.
Not wanting to be late for your appointment, you turn off the satellite program and take the extra time to adjust your space suit before heading out the door.
Five minuets later your dead.
Unlike on our homeworld where one can skip the weather report and “make it” through the day, future colonists ignoring the solar weatherman may find themselves fried alive in their own space suits due to solar radiation.
Scientists are currently working on ways to predict solar weather, and one researcher may have discovered way to give future colonists an hours fare warning of the hazardous particles.
(Space Daily) The type of particle most feared by astronaut safety experts is the ion, that is, an atom which has lost one or more of its charge-balancing electrons. “Energetic ions can damage tissue and break strands of DNA, causing health problems ranging from nausea to cataracts to cancer,” says Cucinotta. […]
Every radiation storm is a mix of electrons, protons and heavier ions. The electrons, being lighter and faster than the others, race out ahead. They are like heralds proclaiming the ions are coming! Posner realized that by measuring the “rise time and intensity of the initial electron surge” he could tell how many ions were following and when they would arrive.
Predicting not only when, but how severe these storms will be would enable humans to determine whether or not it is wise to travel upon the surface of a world, not to mention between them. Although this study is yet in its infancy, solar weathermen will play an increasing role as we expand beyond our “earthen cradle,” and into the solar playground beyond.