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Moon Space Earth NASA

Will the Earth's Tail Fry Moon Visitors? 166

Posted by timothy
from the and-what-sauce-would-you-recommend dept.
Roland Piquepaille writes "Researchers working for NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission have discovered that the Earth's magnetic tail could be harmful to future astronauts. The moon stays inside Earth's 'magnetotail' for six days every month — during full moon. This can have consequences ranging from lunar 'dust storms' to strong electrostatic discharges, according to one researcher quoted by NASA in 'The Moon and the Magnetotail.' So far, this is pure speculation: no man has been on the moon when the magnetotail hits. As added the same scientist, 'Apollo astronauts never landed on a full moon and they never experienced the magnetotail.' But read more for additional details about how Earth's magnetotail could affect men on the moon."
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Will the Earth's Tail Fry Moon Visitors?

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  • All I know (Score:5, Funny)

    by Bastard of Subhumani (827601) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @02:38PM (#23136102) Journal
    All I know is, I don't get any tail for six days every month!
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Meh. That is what towels on the bed and a shower after is for. You're getting ripped off.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Not that he'll understand, he probably doesn't get any tail for the other 24 days either.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by that IT girl (864406)
        Oh, that's nasty D:
        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 20, 2008 @03:19PM (#23136354)
          who said you could leave the kitchen? Go make me a sandwich sweetie.
          • by that IT girl (864406) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @03:20PM (#23136364) Journal
            Spoken like a true anonymous coward.
          • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Sunday April 20, 2008 @03:45PM (#23136492) Homepage Journal
            She works in IT. She dosen't make sandwiches, she makes the coffee, you insensitive clod!
            • by that IT girl (864406) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @04:00PM (#23136618) Journal
              Haha! And people wonder why more women don't take an interest in computers. It's not the computers they're afraid of, it's putting up with all the comments like this... Good thing I can handle it -flex- :D
              • It's called "being able to take a joke" and I assure you that the men in my company are picked on much, much more than the women are. Of course, I'm not counting all the lame pick-up lines that the ladies have to deal with, but eh :P
                • Re:All I know (Score:5, Interesting)

                  by that IT girl (864406) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @04:29PM (#23136812) Journal
                  Oh, of course. In fact, I'm secure and know I'm good at my job, so generally I find these comments pretty funny. Especially knowing some of the women that I work with who I just know HAD to have gotten where they are through... unscrupulous means. Nevertheless, it's not exactly a welcoming environment for the average lady, no matter how savvy. ;)
                  • You'd *love* the place where I just started working. Yes, there's certainly a predominance of males in the engineering and IT departments, but it's quite impressive how many women are working here - in highly technical roles - and every day since I got here I get the sense that this company only hires the best they can get. Right across the street from MIT, as you you could surmise, what they get is pretty damn good :)
                  • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                    by Anonymous Coward
                    The interesting thing is that, before we replaced the job with machines, computation and computer science was dominated by women. It was one of those few "acceptable careers."

                    Maybe it's just that I pay more attention to this area more than others, but it seems like IT in general is an unfriendly place to be. It's fairly elitist in almost every aspect. This is the same complaint of a lot of people moving to linux, women in the industry, and foreigners in the US. There's very much a "who let /you/ in here?" a
              • No. It's the computers. You can't properly accessorize a biege metal box.
                • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

                  by that IT girl (864406)
                  But you sure can try! When I worked for the computer department in college, I had this one professor whose situation had me stumped. I had to re-install her operating system once every week or two, and even replaced the hard drive once because of bad sectors all over the place. I had no idea what was going on; she swore she just used it for emails and her worksheets, etc. After a while, she called one day, and I finally decided I'd go take a look at it in it's usual environment instead of having her bring i
            • by syousef (465911)
              I'm male but when I was 18 working my first IT job (before I went back and got a degree) I'd be asked to make the coffee when visitors came to our office. Fortunately I don't drink coffee and my coffee making skills are truly awful. So I learnt that if you make bad coffee you never get thought of as the coffee boy. Valuable lesson. Do it incompetently enough and you'll not be asked to do it ever again. Like I said I don't drink coffee but by all accounts man that was some undrinkable shit I served.

              Used the
            • by slyborg (524607)
              Coffee's for CLOSERS!
      • by drik00 (526104)
        You gotta love the fact that this guy posted as an AC...
    • by ABoerma (941672)
      Thereby implying you do get tail the rest of the month? You must be- ah, whatever. Lucky git.
    • I'm willing to bet its more than 6 days...just saying. :P
    • by budgenator (254554) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @03:25PM (#23136390) Journal

      All I know is, I don't get any tail for six days every month!
      on the moon the tail gets you, 6 days a month
    • by monoqlith (610041)
      And all I know is....I also don't get any tail the other 24 days.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by j01123 (1147715)

        And all I know is....I also don't get any tail the other 24 days.
        Well, you'll get more tail living on the moon than you do living in your mom's basement.
    • by eclectro (227083)

      All I know is, I don't get any tail for six days every month!
      Dude, you get tail?!?! What moon are you from??
    • by Raineer (1002750)
      Best first post ever.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      My preferred option for those 6 days is to have a hot standby.
  • We need to test this if we go to the moon. Well that, or get mutant astronauts ;)
    • by Walzmyn (913748)
      Wouldn't this be realitivy easy to test? Just shoot something up there and have it sit though one of these episodes and see if anything bad happens. I would think it'd be cheeper than going to Saturn or something.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by arivanov (12034)
        Russian rovers have happily survived through it.

        They were however idle during the night and ran on electronics which are considerably less prone to radiation problems.
        • by arivanov (12034) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @03:02PM (#23136266) Homepage
          Oops... Should have read it again before posting. The happy event happens during full moon when it is nicely lit by the sun so the rovers have indeed experienced it and none of them has observed any such wierd things. They were up there for months so I this is mostly likely not the kind of problem to worry about. It is least likely to be even close to the amount of radiation pounding a station will get during a solar storm.
          • The moon is always nicely lit with sun light on one side; the reason the full moon is full is because the illuminated day side is facing the Earth's unilluminating night side. That also means that the moon is orbiting into the region that the solar wind "pushes" the magnetosphere toward, which is what creates the posible problem which is most likely worst on the nightside that isn't facing the Earth
            • The moon spins about it's polls relative to the sun, but does not spin about its axis relative to the Earth. So the moon has an approximately 29.5 day long "moon day." As such, if you sit in one spot for 29.5 days, you will see one sun rise and one sun set.

              The moon is in the magnetosphere's tail when it is "behind" the Earth (relative to the sun), and it is the solar wind that carries out the magnetic field. During this time, the moon is "sitting" in the area near Earth's shadow (hence, lunar eclipses happe

            • by iwan-nl (832236)

              The moon is always nicely lit with sun light on one side

              Not always... During a lunar eclipse the moon isn't lit (directly) by the sun.

              </nitpick>

        • by daveime (1253762)
          They were however idle during the night and ran on clockwork, elastic bands, and pieces of string which are considerably less prone to radiation problems. There, fixed that for you :-)
  • Full Moon on Moon? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by $0.02 (618911)
    The moon stays inside Earth's 'magnetotail' for six days every month â" during full moon. Wouldn't that be full earth instead?
    • Hmmmm... it would probably actually be during a "new earth".
    • by frovingslosh (582462) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @02:51PM (#23136180)
      No, it would be a "new Earth", which happens from the moon's viewpoint when Earth sees a full moon. A full Earth, from the moon's viewpoint, would happen two weeks later when the moon is "new" and not in the tail at all. Since a "new Earth" and a "full moon" happen at the same time, the full moon reference is perfectly correct and makes more sense.
  • by Robert1 (513674)
    "The ground, meanwhile, might leap into the sky. There's growing evidence that fine particles of moondust might actually float, ejected from the lunar surface by electrostatic repulsion. This could create a temporary nighttime atmosphere of dust ready to blacken spacesuits, clog machinery, scratch faceplates (moondust is very abrasive) and generally make life difficult for astronauts."

    If this were the case, the entire moon's surface-particles floating above the planet 6 days each month, we would have alread
    • Ahem (Score:5, Informative)

      by dreamchaser (49529) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @02:52PM (#23136186) Homepage Journal
      Just one example [nasa.gov] of what might go on that we can't see with regards to lunar dust storms. Took me all of a few seconds to find and there looks to be a lot more to read. Google is your friend.
      • by Jerry (6400)
        Moon dust agitated by the passage of the terminator line may account for several things, including the gradual erosion of the footprints left on the Moon by the astronauts, but it won't explain problems due to the Earth's magnetotail.

        In all diagrams of the Earth's magnetic shield and tail one notices that the Earth is at the strongest point of the Magnetic field, and that the Moon is 60 Earth radii away from source of the magnetic fields. Compared to the magnetic field at the surface of the Earth the magne
        • My point was that just because we can't see it from Earth doesn't mean it isn't happening. There's much we do not know.
    • If this were the case, the entire moon's surface-particles floating above the planet 6 days each month, we would have already seen it. If not with naked eyes then with telescopes. We can see localized dust storms on Mars, I can only imagine what a planet-wide de-surfacing would look like. Ridiculous.

      Not only that - but moon-dust would be worn against itself, and would not be so abrasive, friction would have done it's work on the particles...

      -- Pete.

    • by Belial6 (794905)
      I'm just amazed how all of the particles drop down into the exact same spots when they are done floating, and how they don't rub against each other causing erosion on the surface. Of course maybe we just can't tell with it being made out of green cheese and all.
    • So just spray some water on it, that will keep the dust down. :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 20, 2008 @02:44PM (#23136134)
    "So far, this is pure speculation: no man has been on the moon" Fixed.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 20, 2008 @03:49PM (#23136524)

      "So far, this is pure speculation: no man has been on the moon" Fixed.
      One reply seemed to take this seriously, not as a joke, so I'll bite too.

      To believe that the moon landing never happened as per Fox documentary (oxymoron?) you would have to..

      .. believe that Soviet and China was in on the conspiracy, at the height of the cold war when this was a major blow to them. They could easily have disproved a fake moon landing, and choose to let US revel in glory instead..?

      .. believe that all the actual moon rock available to scientists and universities is... what?

      That's just two Occams Razor points, not going into NASAs rebuttals [nasa.gov] against the so called photo evidence.
      • ".. believe that Soviet and China was in on the conspiracy, at the height of the cold war when this was a major blow to them. They could easily have disproved a fake moon landing, and choose to let US revel in glory instead..?"

        Well...

        First, they would need better evidence than what the fake moon landing yahoos trot out. Since I haven't seen any, I'd feel pretty secure that it doesn't exist.

        Of course, just for fun, let's say it does exist. Let's say the whole thing was fake and Russia and/or China figured it out. Let's also consider the time period.

        To say that it was "the height of the cold war" is dubious. Remember that Nixon, elected in 1968, ushered in a new era of "Détente." The Soviet Union could have used inform

    • So far, this is pure speculation: no man has been

      Fixed. After all, I think, therefore I am. The rest of you are just figments of my twisted, self-flagellating imagination...

  • Not every month (Score:5, Informative)

    by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @02:48PM (#23136168) Homepage
    Actually, the moon doesn't pass through Earth's magnetotail every month-- the moon's orbit is inclined to the ecliptic, so some months the magnetotail passes north or south of the moon-- it depends on season and precession.
    • Re:Not every month (Score:4, Informative)

      by spazdor (902907) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @03:18PM (#23136352)
      Quite right. Otherwise there'd be a lunar and a solar eclipse every month.
    • Re:Not every month (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 20, 2008 @06:21PM (#23137434)
      Even the most conservative estimate indicates the moon always passes through the magnetotail, because the earth's magnetotail is much larger than the earth's shadow. Here's my calculation. If I made a mistake, please correct me.

      The Magnetotail is 20-25 Re(earth radii) across depending on season(minimum 10 Re in radius); much bigger than the shadow of the earth(2 Re). The moon's orbit is inclined 5% off the ecliptic(the plane of earth's orbit around the sun). The earth's magnetotail is essentially in this plane. The moon is at a distance of 405696 km at apogee (~60 Re). This means even at the point when the moon is furthest from the ecliptic plane (ie apogee is coaligned with the magnetotail) it will still fall inside the magnetotail.

      60.24 * sin((5./180)*pi) = 5.25 Re < 10 Re

      Thus, precession or no, the moon will always be in the magnetotail for at least part of each orbit. It would take extremely extraordinary(read: improbable) solar wind conditions to make the magnetotail thin to 5 Re.
  • this article should have read: Roland Piquepaille writes "Researchers working for NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission have discovered that the Earth's magnetic tail could be harmful to future astronauts. The moon stays inside Earth's 'magnetotail' for six days every month â" during full moon. This can have consequences ranging from lunar 'dust storms' to strong electrostatic discharges, according to one researcher quoted by NASA in 'The Moon and the Magnetotail.' So far, this is pure speculati
  • by that IT girl (864406) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @02:56PM (#23136202) Journal
    Am I the only one who can't get past the image of the villain from X-Men? ;)
  • by Anonymous Coward

    But read more for additional details about how Earth's magnetotail could affect men on the moon."
    That's why Jackie Gleason wanted to send ladies to the moon.
  • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Sunday April 20, 2008 @03:01PM (#23136254) Homepage Journal
    Crowd of corpulent Southerners at a Crawfish Tail Fry somewhere on the Redneck Rivera dropping trou' to moon a luxury liner passing by.
  • moot (Score:5, Funny)

    by McGiraf (196030) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @03:25PM (#23136396) Homepage
    This is moot, as we all know they will not make it thought the Radiation Belt anyway.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by McGiraf (196030)
      lol, interesting? wtf? Oh, and by the way, the earth is flat. Yup, seriously.
      • An interesting and an insightful, on two false theories. I really hope some moderator is just having fun...
  • Valid use for tinfoil hats found at last.
  • by byronne (47527) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @03:31PM (#23136422) Homepage
    Alas, the days where one could travel to the moon in comfort and safety are behind us. Now it is nearly as hazardous as trying to merge onto 294.
  • by toastee (132341) <(digitaltoaster) (at) (gmail.com)> on Sunday April 20, 2008 @03:38PM (#23136458)
    Sounds like a great opportunity to harness the energy potential. this could very well be useful.
  • how about ISS? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    why isn't the ISS affected by the "magnetic tail"? It has to pass trough it.
    • According to wikkipedia, the closest part of the magnetosphere is 70000km away from the surface, while the ISS is orbiting at an altitide of routhly 350km. In fact, the low altitude of the ISS protects it from most of the nasty radiations that a moon base could receive, so the shielding was not a difficult issue for the ISS.
  • by jeffkjo1 (663413) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @03:59PM (#23136612) Homepage
    Imagine what it feels like to be a sock pulled crackling from a dryer. Astronauts on the moon during a magnetotail crossing might be able to tell you. Walking across the dusty charged-up lunar terrain, the astronauts themselves would gather a load of excess charge. Touching another astronaut, a doorknob, a piece of sensitive electronics -- any of these simple actions could produce an unwelcome discharge.

    There's a simple solution to the excessive static discharge, all NASA needs to do is get a dryer sheet the size of Michigan. Plus, it would have the added bonus of being able to be used as a giant parachute, ala pre-school... think about how high you could bounce with that thing.
    • by CODiNE (27417)
      You guys jumped on dryer sheets at your school? Daaaang freaky lil short kids.
  • MegaMan (Score:3, Funny)

    by kurtis25 (909650) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @04:08PM (#23136692)
    Didn't we defeat magnetotail back in MegaMan 3 using our Plasma Buster?
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @04:13PM (#23136710) Homepage

    It's Roland the Plogger, wrong as usual.

    It's not like this is a newly discovered phenomenon. After all, there have been many unmanned moon landings and equipment has operated through the "magnetotail" many times. The USSR landed two lunar rovers, both of which worked for months. Lunokhod 1 was operational for 322 days, and Lunokhod 2 was operational for about four months. This was in the early 1970s.

    • by Cecil (37810) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @05:00PM (#23136960) Homepage
      This was in the early 1970s.

      See, there's your problem. The magnetotail wasn't so big back then, because of the ozone hole and global warming and oprah winfrey. Also, gnomes did it.
      • Oh yeah, you seen how much metal is in the average SUV? And all that magnetic energy isn't being blocked because we got rid of the Ozone which was regulating it. It's a danger to us all.

        This has been an official message from the Anti Global-Magnetizing association. Always remember to buy cheap cars, since they have less metal in them.
    • I don't know why there seems to such a scare in the article. The Earth's magnetic force is one gauss. This is not something to really be terribly concerned about. I mean really one stinking Gauss. Sure it covers a large distance, but this tail has got to be really weak at even the Moon's closest approach to Earth. It's more likely Earth's gravitational pull has a larger impact and cause of dust storms on the Moon than it's totally lame Magnetic tail.
    • by 1u3hr (530656) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @09:40PM (#23138456)
      And Roland got his "for more information" link to his blog through again. Recently the editors have omitted these (though if you look in the firehose, Roland puts his spammy blog link in every submission).

      Tagged "blogspam" and "fuckroland".

    • It's not like this is a newly discovered phenomenon. After all, there have been many unmanned moon landings and equipment has operated through the "magnetotail" many times. The USSR landed two lunar rovers, both of which worked for months. Lunokhod 1 was operational for 322 days, and Lunokhod 2 was operational for about four months. This was in the early 1970s.

      Not to mention the ALSEP instrument packages left behind by the Apollo landing missions - many of them still operational in 1977 when the program wa

  • by d3m0nCr4t (869332) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @04:22PM (#23136758)
    They are going to need one hell of a cable to earth that...
  • ...how the moon's magnetotail would affect theoretical people on the Earth. We never went there, you know. It's scientifically impossible.
  • by Microsift (223381) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @07:57PM (#23137924)
    So, while the Moon is positioned such that it reflects the Sun's rays back at earth, astronauts could get fried, would that be a Soleil Moon Frye?
  • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Sunday April 20, 2008 @10:22PM (#23138638)
    A detailed look at this can be found in this link from Nasa [nasa.gov] on the topic of moon fountains, which is basically the exact same thing under a different name.
  • I mean haven't we already sent probes and satelites to the moon already, why havent they discovered this? So we send a probe to the moon to test this and if it pans out we buy all the astronaugts tinfoil underwear...
  • Couldn't they just make the moon base be a giant Faraday cage and not go outside for six days a month?
  • Now at last I have an inkling of how werewolves come to be.

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