A recent study showed that crewed missions to and from the moon would face an increased risk of extreme space weather events in just five years.
In recent years, space agencies around the world have been preparing to return to the moon.
As well as developing the sophisticated systems needed to ensure the safety of astronauts in a dangerous extraterrestrial environment, space agencies should consider the ever-present danger from space weather – coronal mass ejections. During them, the instability of the Sun’s magnetic field leads to the release of a huge amount of superheated plasma.
Space weather is also highly unpredictable, making it difficult to predict beyond the short term. And yet there is data that scientists can rely on.
For example, the Sun and its powerful magnetic field follow an approximately 11-year cycle of activity, during which the north and south magnetic poles of a star change their position. During each of these repeating cycles, a solar maximum occurs, during which the star is most active. Also, the star passes through the solar minimum – a relatively quiet phase. Each solar cycle is measured from the beginning of one solar minimum to the beginning of the next.
Research from the University of Reading shows that planned missions to the Moon and beyond are at greater risk due to extreme weather events if their launch dates are pushed back to the late 2020s. The authors combined statistical modeling of the occurrence of storms with ground-based observations of global geomagnetic data over 150 years.
The analysis revealed a number of key characteristics of extreme space weather events.
The sun entered its last (and current) cycle in December 2019. Any crewed missions to and from the moon between 2026 and 2030 will face extreme and potentially hazardous space weather, according to a new study.