Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Solar Wind at 50 year low, You Still Need Sunscreen


The Solar Wind, which has a protective role in defending us from cosmic rays, is at a 50 year low. What does this mean? The BBC puts it in a nutshell:

"The charged wind particles also carry with them the Sun's magnetic field, and this has a protective role in limiting the number of high-energy cosmic rays that can enter the Solar System."

These rays can interfere with electronics and may mean high doses of radiation for people outside of the earth's atmosphere. It's a bad time to be traveling in space.

Our own upper atmosphere will cool, which will mean that fewer orbiting objects will be pulled in and burned up, meaning more space debris, also bad for space travelers. Richard Branson is staring at his cornflakes.

There are theories that the solar winds may affect climate on earth, particularly cloudiness, and this turn of events will allow further study. We should remember that the sun's behavior is constantly in flux and this shift is within the range expected by scientists.