In 2018 scientists documented the first evidence of water ice on the Moon that was trapped in the bottom of craters at the north and south poles locked in perpetual shadow. Discovery of the ice created new questions. While the craters are protected from direct sunlight, they aren’t shielded from solar wind. The ionized particles from the Sun is highly erosive and, unlike the Earth, the Moon has no magnetic shield to protect it. By some peoples’ reckoning, the solar wind should have destroyed the ice long ago.
In research presented at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference last month, University of Arizona scientists shared their map of magnetic anomalies, regions of the lunar surface with unusually strong magnetic fields, reports LiveScience.
These anomalies may serve as tiny magnetic shields.”These anomalies can deflect the solar wind,” Lon Hood, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona, told Science. “We think they could be quite significant in shielding the permanently shadowed regions.” more “Do Small Magnetic Fields Protect Pockets of Lunar Ice?”
The European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter has captured an image of a massive solar eruption that belched hot plasma 2.2 million miles into space. Fortunately, the eruption, which took place February 15, is heading away from the Earth, reports BGR.
When so-called coronal mass ejections face the Earth, which is 92 million miles away, they can overwhelm the protection provided by the Earth’s magnetic field and wreak havoc on telecommunications systems and power grids.
The Moon has no magnetic field, and giant solar eruptions could do even more damage to infrastructure on the lunar surface.
Astronauts walking on the surface of the Moon will be exposed to radiation levels 200 times higher than that on Earth,
The first systematically documented measurements of radiation on the Moon were undertaken in January 2019 when China’s Chang’e 4 robotic spacecraft landed on the far side of the Moons, according to an article published in Science Advances. Different sources of lunar radiation include galactic cosmic rays, solar particle events, and neutrons and gamma rays from interactions between space radiation and the lunar soil.
“The radiation levels we measured on the Moon are about 200 times higher than on the surface of the Earth and 5 to 10 times higher than on a flight from New York to Frankfurt,” said Robert Wimmer-Schweingruber, a professor of physics at the University of Kiel in Germany and the corresponding author of the study. “Because astronauts would be exposed to these radiation levels longer than passengers or pilots on transatlantic flights, this is a considerable exposure.”
NASA scientists describe radiation as the “most menacing” of the five main hazards of human space flight, surpassing isolation and confinement, distance from Earth, lack of gravity, and hostile/closed environment.
Chronic exposure to galactic cosmic rays may induce cataracts, cancer or degenerative diseases of the central nervous systems or other organ systems, reports CNN in summarizing the article’s findings. Additionally, the study said, exposure to large solar-particle events without sufficient shielding may cause “severe acute effects.”
Astronauts living on the International Space Station for as long as a year reside within the Earth’s protective magnetic shield. They are exposed to ten times more radiation than what they would experience on Earth, but that’s a small dose compared to what astronauts would be subjected to on the surface of the Moon or in deep space.
The Earth’s magnetosphere protects the plant from bursts of solar wind — high-speed particles emanating from the sun — and the Moon as well, at least during the 25% of the time when the Earth stands between it and the sun. However, NASA scientists have discovered that solar wind can cause the tail of Earth’s protective magnetic bubble to flap like a windsock in a high breeze, pulling the tail so far out of line that the Moon loses its shelter.
The finding is significant because solar radiation may be the greatest hazard facing explorers and settlers on the Moon, and their equipment, making the ability to predict bursts of radiation a critical necessity.