Updated 19 Jun, 2013, 11:04 am IST
A system developed by scientists is capable of warning astronauts about radiation from solar storms nearly three hours in advance, says a study.
"If you're in a plane flying over the poles, there is an increased radiation exposure comparable to having an extra chest X-ray you weren't planning on," says John Bieber, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Delaware Bartol Research Institute."However, if you're an astronaut on the way to the Moon or Mars, it's a big problem. It could kill you," adds Bieber, who supervised the project led by Su Yeon Oh, post-doctoral researcher at Chungnam National University, South Korea, the International Journal of Research and Applications reported.
The sun is now moving into a peak period of solar storm activity, which generally occurs every 11 years. The solar storms, flares and coronal mass ejections threaten the electrical system on the Earth in addition to some astronauts and fliers.
"Travelling nearly at the speed of light, it takes just 10 minutes for the first particles ejected from a solar storm to reach the Earth," Bieber said, according to a university statement. These sun storms can cover thousands of miles on the sun, like a wave of exploding hydrogen bombs.
Earth outer space (Image courtesy: NASA)
The researchers used data collected by two neutron monitors installed years ago at the South Pole by Delaware - one inside and one outside the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station - to determine the intensity of the high-energy, fast-moving particles that arrive to the Earth first from solar storms, said a university statement.
These particles can carry energies over 500 megaelectron volts (MeV) - that's over 500 million electron volts. By examining the properties of these first-arriving particles, the scientists can make useful predictions about the slower-moving, yet more dangerous particles to follow.
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