New data from a NASA spacecraft indicates that Galactic cosmic rays have just hit a Space Age high. This year, cosmic ray intensities have increased 19% beyond figures recorded in the past 50 years. A significant increased, this is also an indication that NASA would need to rethink of the intensity of radiation sheilding astronauts take with them on deep-space missions.
The increase in cosmic rays however poses no threat to Earth. It was detected by NASA’s ACE (Advanced Composition Explorer) spacecraft. However, it causes a long pause of sorts in the sun’s activity which began around 2007 and is still continuing. When cosmic rays increase, solar activity declines because strong solar activity inflates and bolsters a protective bubble around the entire solar system.
Current solar activity is weak, which sets the stage for a perfect storm of cosmic rays. Galactic cosmic rays come from outside the solar system. These subatomic particles accelerate to almost light speed by distant supernova explosions. These rays cause ‘air showers’ of secondary particles. When they hit Earth’s atmosphere, they can be a threat to orbiting satellites. A single cosmic ray can easily disable a satellite if it hits an integrated circuit.Some indicate that cosmic rays are due to the Earth’s current warming climate. However, current research shows no link between them at all.
The current state of low solar activity means the solar system is not well protected. The sun’s magnetic field, also called the heliosphere, surrounds the entire solar system and is our first line of defence against these highly-charged, energetic particles.