Have you ever been hit by a beam of high energy particles from above? Surely you have since it happens all of the time. And the cosmic ray situation is WORSENING. Cosmic rays hitting Earth are bad and are getting worse. That’s the conclusion of a new paper just published in the research journal Space Weather, showing that radiation from deep space is dangerous and intensifying faster than previously predicted.

cosmic rays hitting Earth are bad and getting worse, worsening cosmic ray situation, intensifying cosmic ray intensity, why is the cosmic ray situation worsening, Why are cosmic rays intensifying
Cosmic rays were discovered unexpectedly in 1912. It is now known that most cosmic rays are atomic nuclei. Most are hydrogen nuclei, some are helium nuclei, and the rest heavier elements. The relative abundance changes with cosmic ray energy, with the highest energy cosmic rays tend to be heavier nuclei. Although many of the low energy cosmic rays come from our Sun, the origins of the highest energy cosmic rays remains unknown and a topic of much research. This drawing illustrates air showers from very high energy cosmic rays. Cosmic rays may even be important to Earth’s weather, as common lightning may be triggered by passing cosmic rays. via APOD

The story begins four years ago when Schwadron and colleagues first sounded the alarm about cosmic rays. Analyzing data from the Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation (CRaTER) instrument onboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), they found that cosmic rays in the Earth-Moon system were peaking at levels never before seen in the Space Age. The worsening radiation environment, they pointed out, was a potential peril to astronauts, curtailing how long they could safely travel through space.

This figure from their original 2014 paper shows the number of days a 30-year old male astronaut flying in a spaceship with 10 g/cm2 of aluminum shielding could go before hitting NASA-mandated radiation limits:

cosmic rays hitting Earth are bad and getting worse, worsening cosmic ray situation, intensifying cosmic ray intensity, why is the cosmic ray situation worsening, Why are cosmic rays intensifying
Cosmic rays in the Earth-Moon system were peaking at levels never before seen in the Space Age and the trend is worsening.

In the 1990s, the astronaut could spend 1000 days in interplanetary space. In 2014 … only 700 days. “That’s a huge change,” says Schwadron.

Galactic cosmic rays come from outside the solar system. They are a mixture of high-energy photons and sub-atomic particles accelerated toward Earth by supernova explosions and other violent events in the cosmos. Our first line of defense is the sun: The sun’s magnetic field and solar wind combine to create a porous ‘shield’ that fends off cosmic rays attempting to enter the solar system. The shielding action of the sun is strongest during Solar Maximum and weakest during Solar Minimum–hence the 11-year rhythm of the mission duration plot above.

The problem is, as the authors note in their new paper, the shield is weakening:Over the last decade, the solar wind has exhibited low densities and magnetic field strengths, representing anomalous states that have never been observed during the Space Age. As a result of this remarkably weak solar activity, we have also observed the highest fluxes of cosmic rays.

Back in 2014, Schwadron et al used a leading model of solar activity to predict how bad cosmic rays would become during the next Solar Minimum, now expected in 2019-2020. “Our previous work suggested a ~ 20% increase of dose rates from one solar minimum to the next,” says Schwadron. “In fact, we now see that actual dose rates observed by CRaTER in the last 4 years exceed the predictions by ~ 10%, showing that the radiation environment is worsening even more rapidly than we expected.” In this plot bright green data points show the recent excess:

cosmic rays hitting Earth are bad and getting worse, worsening cosmic ray situation, intensifying cosmic ray intensity, why is the cosmic ray situation worsening, Why are cosmic rays intensifying
Previous work suggested a ~ 20% increase of dose rates from one solar minimum to the next. In fact, the actual dose rates in the last 4 years exceed the predictions by ~ 10%, showing that the radiation environment is worsening even more rapidly than we expected.

The data Schwadron et al have been analyzing come from CRaTER on the LRO spacecraft in orbit around the Moon, which is point-blank exposed to any cosmic radiation the sun allows to pass. Here on Earth, we have two additional lines of defense: the magnetic field and atmosphere of our planet. Both mitigate cosmic rays.

But even on Earth the increase is being felt

Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have been launching space weather balloons to the stratosphere almost weekly since 2015. Sensors onboard those balloons show a 13% increase in radiation (X-rays and gamma-rays) penetrating our planet’s atmosphere:

cosmic rays hitting Earth are bad and getting worse, worsening cosmic ray situation, intensifying cosmic ray intensity, why is the cosmic ray situation worsening, Why are cosmic rays intensifying
Even on Earth the increase in cosmic rays intensity is being felt. Space weather balloon sensors show a 13% increase in radiation (X-rays and gamma-rays) penetrating our planet’s atmosphere.

X-rays and gamma-rays detected by these balloons are “secondary cosmic rays,” produced by the crash of primary cosmic rays into Earth’s upper atmosphere. They trace radiation percolating down toward our planet’s surface. The energy range of the sensors, 10 keV to 20 MeV, is similar to that of medical X-ray machines and airport security scanners.

How does this affect us?

Cosmic rays penetrate commercial airlines, dosing passengers and flight crews so much that pilots are classified by the International Commission on Radiological Protection as occupational radiation workers. Some research shows that cosmic rays can seed clouds and trigger lightning, potentially altering weather and climate. Furthermore, there are studies linking cosmic rays with cardiac arrhythmias in the general population.

cosmic rays hitting Earth are bad and getting worse, worsening cosmic ray situation, intensifying cosmic ray intensity, why is the cosmic ray situation worsening, Why are cosmic rays intensifying
This plot displays radiation measurements not only in the stratosphere, but also at aviation altitudes. Dose rates are expessed as multiples of sea level. For instance, we see that boarding a plane that flies at 25,000 feet exposes passengers to dose rates ~10x higher than sea level. At 40,000 feet, the multiplier is closer to 50x. These measurements are made by our usual cosmic ray payload as it passes through aviation altitudes en route to the stratosphere over California. via Spaceweather

Why are cosmic rays intensifying?

The main reason is the sun. Solar storm clouds such as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) sweep aside cosmic rays when they pass by Earth. During Solar Maximum, CMEs are abundant and cosmic rays are held at bay. Now, however, the solar cycle is swinging toward Solar Minimum, allowing cosmic rays to return. Another reason could be the weakening of Earth’s magnetic field, which helps protect us from deep-space radiation.

Cosmic rays will intensify even more in the years ahead as the sun plunges toward what may be the deepest Solar Minimum in more than a century.

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Space Weather, APOD

9 COMMENTS

  1. […] Have you ever been hit by a beam of high energy particles from above? Surely you have since it happens all of the time. And the cosmic ray situation is WORSENING. Cosmic rays hitting Earth are bad and are getting worse. That’s the conclusion of a new paper just published in the research journal Space Weather, showing that radiation from deep space is dangerous and intensifying faster than previously predicted.  Read More… […]

  2. These rays can be heard by the short wave.
    They tend to scratch all the bands when they appear.
    The bands are usually those of 75,65,41,31,25 and 15 Meters
    Depending on the time it is during the day or if it is at night.
    The night bands are those of 75, 65 and 41 meters.
    And the day bands are those of 31, 25 and 15 Meters

  3. I saw this on the space weather. Com website which CONFIRMS the data from both websites are a EXCELLENT source of info. As the Sun’s electric magnetic field has been weakening for over 45 years it interacts with the Earths EMF field like a large and small magnets. The Earths field is then affected and weakens in tandem with the Sun and badda bing badda boom u get X-TRA cosmic rays hitting everything in our Solar system, duck and cover or hide ? Wonder what’s the difference in Red suns CRs and a black holes?

  4. Cosmic rays? I am sure that many rays are coming from some mother ships or even scout ships of Galactic Federation of Light. Some dorm shape blue or pinkish rays, or beams are their direct weapon. Recently I cancelled my satellite internet service from Verisat. Many people in many places are complaining that they do not have the signal at all for more than a week. Probably, Satellite Verisat2 might have been shot down by Galactic Forces because Verisat2 was for Government & military usages.

    In 2011, the secret underground base for NASA had been wiped out by Galactic Forces, and more than 500 people ( more likely bad aliens including reptilians from Orion and Hydra) had been killed. The secret underground base was located just under Dallas – Fort Worth International Airport in Texas. When they were attacked, they were assembling ancient spaceship, Vimana which was found in Afghanistan during the Afghan War (actually invasion).

    More info: Youtube ‘ALIEN ATTACK’ LEAVES 500 DEAD IN FORT WORTH, TEXAS

  5. Here you have a shortwave radio (SDR) with a medium wave, long wave, located in Washington USA, where in some frequencies … 9000Khz …. 14000Khz and others for example, you can see those rays painted in the waterfall diagonally, sweeping the entire band of left to right.

    Happy listening and happy visualizations.

    http://na5b.ddns.net:8901/

  6. …. To those diagonal lilies, they are also called “Electronic Shooting Stars” reflected in some bands. These rays are Ions coming from our sun and from other nearby sources of energy that are wandering in outer space and collide with our atmosphere or pass through it …. and …. blah blah blah

  7. I don`t know if 13% growth is significant, especially in such little doses. 4,5 microgreys per hour means that you would have to be exposed by over 12,5 years to have first radiation sickness symptoms. Assuming that this energy would not come out of organism and it would not adapt to it. In reality some or most of energy would radiate out and organism surely would adapt a bit. And exposure time is also important, longer time means less of symptoms.

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