Cosmic Ray Update: New Results from the Moon

By Dr Tony Phillips

July 16, 2019: Note to astronauts: 2019 is not a good year to fly into deep space. In fact, it’s shaping up to be one of the worst of the Space Age.

The reason is, the solar cycle. One of the deepest Solar Minima of the past century is underway now. As the sun’s magnetic field weakens, cosmic rays from deep space are flooding into the solar system, posing potential health risks to astronauts.

NASA is monitoring the situation with a radiation sensor in lunar orbit. The Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation (CRaTER) has been circling the Moon on NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft since 2009. Researchers have just published a paper in the journal Space Weather describing CRaTER’s latest findings.

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“The overall decrease in solar activity in this period has led to an increased flux of energetic particles, to levels that are approaching those observed during the previous solar minimum in 2009/2010, which was the deepest minimum of the Space Age,” write the authors, led by Cary Zeitlin of NASA’s Johnson Space Flight Center. “The data have implications for human exploration of deep space.”

This always happens during Solar Minimum. As solar activity goes down, cosmic rays go up. The last two Solar Minima have been unusually deep, leading to high cosmic ray fluxes in 2008-2010 and again in 2018-2019. These are the worst years since humans first left Earth in the 1960s.

“It’s a bit counterintuitive,” says one of the authors, Nathan Schwadron, a space physicist at the University of New Hampshire. “Solar Minimum may actually be more dangerous than Solar Maximum.”

In their paper, Zeitlin, Schwadron and co-authors describe an interesting experiment by NASA that highlights the relative peril of solar flares vs. cosmic rays. In 2011, NASA launched the Curiosity rover to Mars. Inside its spacecraft, the rover was protected by about as much shielding (20 gm/cm^2) as a human astronaut would have. A radiation sensor tucked inside kept track of Curiosity’s exposure.

The results were surprising. During the 9-month journey to Mars, radiation from solar flares (including the strongest flare of the previous solar cycle) accounted for only about 5% of Curiosity’s total dose. The remaining 95% came from cosmic rays.

Why the imbalance? “Solar flares of the size we’ve seen during the Space Age can be largely mitigated by achievable depths of spacecraft shielding(1),” explains Zeitlin. “We can’t stop the highest energy cosmic rays, however. They penetrate the walls of any spacecraft.”

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Solar flares are still a concern. If an astronaut were caught outside on EVA during an intense, unexpected flare, acute effects could include vomiting, fatigue, and low blood counts. A quick return to Earth might be required for medical care. Cosmic rays are more insidious, acting slowly, with maladies such as cancer or heart disease showing up years after the exposure.

As 2019 unfolds, Solar Minimum appears to still be deepening. Cosmic rays haven’t quite broken the Space Age record set in 2009-2010, but they’re getting close, only percentage points from the highest values CRaTER has ever recorded.

“No one can predict what will happen next,” says Schwadron. “However, the situation speaks for itself: We are experiencing a period of unusually weak solar cycles. We have to be prepared for strong cosmic rays.”

END NOTES:

(1) According to Zeitlin, “achievable” shielding depths will be at least 20 to 30 gm/cm^2. “Vehicles carrying humans into deep space will likely have storm shelters that will provide this much shielding or more, and that would indeed be sufficient – even for an event like the great solar flare of August 1972 during the Apollo program – to keep the accumulated dose below the 30-day limit.”

REFERENCE:

“Update on Galactic Cosmic Ray Integral Flux Measurements in Lunar Orbit With CRaTER”, by C. Zeitlin, N. A. Schwadron, H. E. Spence, A. P. Jordan, M. D. Looper, J. Wilson, J. E. Mazur, L. W. Townsend. https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2019SW002223

Link to the original post is HERE

 

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New Evidence Cosmic Rays Impact Climate

cosmic-ray-shower
New evidence suggests that high-energy particles from space known as galactic cosmic rays affect the Earth’s climate by increasing cloud cover, causing an “umbrella effect.” –Kobe University, Japan, 3 July 2019

Intensified East Asian winter monsoon during the last geomagnetic reversal transition
Yusuke Ueno, Masayuki Hyodo, Tianshui Yang & Shigehiro Katoh
Scientific Reportsvolume 9, Article number: 9389 (2019) | Download Citation

Abstract

The strength of Earth’s magnetic dipole field controls galactic cosmic ray (GCR) flux, and GCR-induced cloud formation can affect climate. Here, we provide the first evidence of the GCR-induced cloud effect on the East-Asian monsoon during the last geomagnetic reversal transition. Bicentennial-resolution monsoon records from the Chinese Loess Plateau revealed that the summer monsoon (SM) was affected by millennial-scale climate events that occurred before and after the reversal, and that the winter monsoon (WM) intensified independently of SM variations; dust accumulation rates increased, coinciding with a cooling event in Osaka Bay. The WM intensification event lasted about 5000 years across an SM peak, during which the Earth’s magnetic dipole field weakened to <25% of its present strength and the GCR flux increased by more than 50%. Thus, the WM intensification likely resulted from the increased land–ocean temperature gradient originating with the strong Siberian High that resulted from the umbrella effect of increased low-cloud cover through an increase in GCR flux.

Details HERE

 

Supernovae-Induced Lightning May Have Encouraged Humanity’s Ancestors To Walk Upright

Editorial Question: What else could these high energy cosmic rays have caused? Thoughts?

A bombardment of cosmic rays from ancient supernovae may have triggered a series of events that encouraged early human ancestors to walk upright, according to a new study published in the Journal of Geology. The scientists behind the research believe that the cosmic explosion could have helped trigger a shift in Earth’s environment that forced humanity’s fore bearers to adapt.

Supernovae are some of the most dramatic and energetic events known to take place in the visible universe. They can occur either when a white dwarf strips too much matter from a nearby companion star, causing it to become unstable, or when a stellar body many times the mass of our Sun runs out of material to fuel the nuclear fusion process raging in its core.

The end result of both scenarios is a violent explosion that seeds the surrounding environment with vast amounts of stellar material, and bombards worlds hundreds of light-years away with cosmic rays.

There is evidence to suggest that Earth’s atmosphere has been interacting with cosmic energy thrown out by a series of supernovae explosions for the last 8 million years. The authors of a recently published study assert that, at the peak of the bombardment, roughly 2.6 million years ago, the radiation was partially responsible for reshaping the environment of northeast Africa, where humanity’s ancestors where developing.

Continue reading HERE.

“We contend it would increase the ionization of the lower atmosphere by 50-fold,” said Melott, lead author of the study. Usually, you don’t get lower-atmosphere ionization because cosmic rays don’t penetrate that far, but the more energetic ones from supernovae come right down to the surface — so there would be a lot of electrons being knocked out of the atmosphere.”

Deep Solar Minimum Fast-Approaching And Cosmic Rays Continue To Rise

By Paul Dorian, Perspecta, Inc. April 29, 2019

Overview

The sun continues to be very quiet and it has been without sunspots this year more than half the time as we approach what is likely to be a deep solar minimum. In fact, all indications are that the upcoming solar minimum which is expected to begin later this year may be even quieter than the last one which was the deepest in nearly a century. Solar cycle 24 has been the weakest sunspot cycle with the fewest sunspots since cycle 14 peaked in February 1906. Solar cycle 24 continues a recent trend of weakening solar cycles which began with solar cycle 21 that peaked around 1980. The last time the sun was this blank in a given year on a percentage basis was 2009 during the last solar minimum when 71% of the time was spotless. That last solar minimum actually reached a nadir in 2008 when an astounding 73% of the year featured a spotless sun – the most spotless days in a given year since 1913. One of the natural impacts of decreasing solar activity is the weakening of the ambient solar wind and its magnetic field which, in turn, allows more and more cosmic rays to penetrate the solar system. The intensification of cosmic rays can have important consequences on such things as Earth’s cloud cover and climate, the safety of air travelers and as a possible trigger mechanism for lightning.

Continue reading HERE.

 

Current Solar Cycle Among Weakest On Record. Potentially Cloud-Seeding Cosmic Radiation Near Highest Level Since 1950s

The Sun in April 2019

 

This is reblogged from the No Tricks Zone. The original is HERE  Comments included.

 

The Sun Is Stranger Than Astrophysicists Imagined

GammaRays-2880x1620_Lede-2880x1620

Natalie Wolchover writing in Quantum Magazine has the details:

A decade’s worth of telescope observations of the sun have revealed a startling mystery: Gamma rays, the highest frequency waves of light, radiate from our nearest star seven times more abundantly than expected. Stranger still, despite this extreme excess of gamma rays overall, a narrow bandwidth of frequencies is curiously absent.

The surplus light, the gap in the spectrum, and other surprises about the solar gamma-ray signal potentially point to unknown features of the sun’s magnetic field, or more exotic physics.

“It’s amazing that we were so spectacularly wrong about something we should understand really well: the sun,” said Brian Fields, a particle astrophysicist at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

The unexpected signal has emerged in data from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, a NASA observatory that scans the sky from its outpost in low-Earth orbit. As more Fermi data have accrued, revealing the spectrum of gamma rays coming from the sun in ever-greater detail, the puzzles have only proliferated.

“We just kept finding surprising things,” said Annika Peter of Ohio State University, a co-author of a recent white paper summarizing several years of findings about the solar gamma-ray signal. “It’s definitely the most surprising thing I’ve ever worked on.”

Not only is the gamma-ray signal far stronger than a decades-old theory predicts; it also extends to much higher frequencies than predicted, and it inexplicably varies across the face of the sun and throughout the 11-year solar cycle. Then there’s the gap, which researchers call a “dip” — a lack of gamma rays with frequencies around 10 trillion trillion hertz. “The dip just defies all logic,” said Tim Linden, a particle astrophysicist at Ohio State who helped analyze the signal.

Fields, who wasn’t involved in the work, said, “They’ve done a great job with the data, and the story it tells is really kind of amazing.”

Continue reading HERE.

Download white paper HERE.

The science is never settled, there is always something new to learn and marvel over.  What do you think is happening on the sun?  My vote is the dip is instrument error, until we have more data from another source to confirm the dip.  Stay tuned this is going to be exciting!

The Weakening Of Earth’s Magnetic Field Has Greatly Accelerated

Earth’s magnetic field is getting significantly weaker, the magnetic north pole is shifting at an accelerating pace, and scientists readily admit that a sudden pole shift could potentially cause “trillions of dollars” in damage. Today, most of us take the protection provided by Earth’s magnetic field completely for granted. It is essentially a colossal force field which surrounds our planet and makes life possible. And even with such protection, a giant solar storm could still potentially hit our planet and completely fry our power grid. But as our magnetic field continues to get weaker and weaker, even much smaller solar storms will have the potential to be cataclysmic. And once the magnetic field gets weak enough, we will be facing much bigger problems. As you will see below, if enough solar radiation starts reaching our planet none of us will survive.
But now we are being told that data collected from the SWARM satellite indicate that the rate of decay is now 5 percent per decade…

It’s well established that in modern times, the axial dipole component of Earth’s main magnetic field is decreasing by approximately 5% per century. Recently, scientists using the SWARM satellite announced that their data indicate a decay rate ten times faster, or 5% per decade.

In case you didn’t quite get that, 5 percent per decade is 10 times faster than 5 percent per century.

If the rate of decay continues at this pace, or if it speeds up, even more, we could be looking at a mass extinction event that is beyond what most people would dare to imagine.

Source: Zero Hedge 

As the magnetic field strength declines, more cosmic ray could create more clouds and we could see significant cooling? Of course, that could be the least of our problems. That raises a question, what was the magnetic fields strength at the start of the last grand minimum, at the start of the last Ice Age. Anyone know how to get an estimate?

Henrik Svensmark: FORCE MAJEURE The Sun’s Role in Climate Change

I am still studying this paper but wanted to share and get your feedback

Executive Summary

Over the last twenty years there has been good progress in understanding the solar influ- ence on climate. In particular, many scientific studies have shown that changes in solar activ- ity have impacted climate over the whole Holocene period (approximately the last 10,000 years). A well-known example is the existence of high solar activity during the Medieval Warm Period, around the year 1000 AD, and the subsequent low levels of solar activity during the cold period, now called The Little Ice Age (1300–1850 AD). An important scientific task has been to quantify the solar impact on climate, and it has been found that over the eleven- year solar cycle the energy that enters the Earth’s system is of the order of 1.0–1.5 W/m2. This is nearly an order of magnitude larger than what would be expected from solar irradiance alone, and suggests that solar activity is getting amplified by some atmospheric process.

Three main theories have been put forward to explain the solar–climate link, which are:
• solarultravioletchanges
• theatmospheric-electric-fieldeffectoncloudcover
• cloudchangesproducedbysolar-modulatedgalacticcosmicrays(energeticparticles originating from inter stellar space and ending in our atmosphere).

Significant efforts has gone into understanding possible mechanisms, and at the moment cosmic ray modulation of Earth’s cloud cover seems rather promising in explaining the size of solar impact. This theory suggests that solar activity has had a significant impact on climate during the Holocene period. This understanding is in contrast to the official consensus from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, where it is estimated that the change in solar radiative forcing between 1750 and 2011 was around 0.05 W/m2, a value which is en- tirely negligible relative to the effect of greenhouse gases, estimated at around 2.3 W/m2. However, the existence of an atmospheric solar-amplification mechanism would have im- plications for the estimated climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide, suggesting that it is much lower than currently thought.

In summary, the impact of solar activity on climate is much larger than the official consen- sus suggests. This is therefore an important scientific question that needs to be addressed by the scientific community.

Full paper at the GWPF website HERE.

 

Neutrons Detected on Commercial Airplane Flights

Shared Post by Dr. Tony Phillips from Spaceweather.com  Another example of how little we know about the electronic soup that surrounds our planet.

March 13, 2019: Long lines. Narrow seats. Baggage fees. You recognize this list. It’s the downside of flying on modern commercial airlines. And now we have a new item to add: cosmic ray neutrons.

Spaceweather.com and Earth to Sky Calculus have just completed a 5-continent survey of neutron radiation at aviation altitudes. From December 2018 through February 2019, Hervey Allen of the University of Oregon’s Network Startup Resource Center carried  Earth to Sky radiation sensorsincluding neutron bubble chambers–onboard commercial flights from North America to Europe, Africa, South America and Asia.

map2

Hervey logged 83 hours in the air as he traveled 41,500 miles above 30,000 feet. For reference, that’s almost twice the circumference of the Earth. The entire time, he gathered data on X-rays, gamma-rays and neutrons in an energy range (10 keV to 20 MeV) similar to that of medical radiology devices and “killer electrons” from the Van Allen Radiation Belts.

The results were eye-opening. During the trip, Hervey recorded 230 uGy (microGrays) of cosmic radiation. That’s about the same as 23 panoramic dental x-rays or two and a half chest X-rays. Moreover, 41% of the dose came in the form of neutrons. This confirms that cosmic-ray neutrons are abundant at aviation altitudes and must be considered in any discussion of “Rads on a Plane.”

neutrons1

Researchers have long known that cosmic rays penetrate airplanes. Our own 3-year survey of global radiation shows that X-rays and gamma-rays at aviation altitudes are typically 50 times stronger than sea level. This new survey focuses on neutrons, a more potent type of radiation from deep space. Studies show that neutrons can be ten times more effective at causing biological damage compared to X-rays and gamma-rays in the same energy range. Neutrons are so effective, they are used for cancer therapy, killing tumors better than other forms of radiation.

Should we be worried about Hervey? Although he absorbed a lot of radiation during the survey, he did so slowly. Hervey’s whole body dose was spread out over 14 flights and 3 months–unlike, say, a dental X-ray which is localized to the jaw and delivered in a split-second. Slow delivery gives the body time to respond, repair damage, and move on without obvious health effects. On the other hand, at least one study shows that low-dose radiation received over a long period of time may slightly increase the risk of leukaemia, while flight attendants have been found to have a higher risk of cancer than the general population.

neutrons2

Our survey also revealed some geographical variations. Generally speaking, neutron radiation was stronger near the Arctic Circle and weaker near the equator. It was weakest of all, however, in flights over Chile as the aircraft skirted the South Atlantic Anomaly. We will be investigating these variations with additional flights in the near future.

Stay tuned!

Cosmic Rays Increasing for the 4th Year in a Row

Feb. 21, 2019: Cosmic rays in the stratosphere are intensifying for the 4th year in a row. This finding comes from a campaign of almost weekly high-altitude balloon launches conducted by the students of Earth to Sky Calculus. Since March 2015, there has been a ~13% increase in X-rays and gamma-rays over central California, where the students have launched hundreds of balloons.

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The grey points in the graph are Earth to Sky balloon data. Overlaid on that time series is a record of neutron monitor data from the Sodankyla Geophysical Observatory in Oulu, Finland. The correlation between the two data sets is impressive, especially considering their wide geographic separation and differing methodologies. Neutron monitors have long been considered a “gold standard” for monitoring cosmic rays on Earth. This shows that our student-built balloons are gathering data of similar quality.

Why are cosmic rays increasing? The short answer is “Solar Minimum.” Right now, the 11-year solar cycle is plunging into one of the deepest minima of the Space Age. The sun’s weakening magnetic field and flagging solar wind are not protecting us as usual from deep-space radiation. Earth to Sky balloon launches in multiple countries and US states show that this is a widespread phenomenon.

solarcycle

Cosmic rays are of interest to anyone who flies on airplanes. The International Commission on Radiological Protection has classified pilots as occupational radiation workers because of cosmic ray doses they receive while flying. A recent study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health shows that flight attendants face an elevated risk of cancer compared to members of the general population. They listed cosmic rays as one of several risk factors. There are also controversial studies that suggest cosmic rays promote the formation of clouds in the atmosphere; if so, increasing cosmic rays could affect weather and climate.

Thanks to Dr. Phillips for sharing this post from Spaceweather.com  [Emphasis added]

The more cosmic rays the more clouds, which results in more cooling of the planet.