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Space Science

Cosmic Ray Intensity Reaches Highest Levels In 50 years 263

Posted by samzenpus
from the start-the-mutations dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A NASA probe found that cosmic ray intensities in 2009 had increased by almost 20 percent beyond anything seen in the past 50 years. Such cosmic rays arise from distant supernova explosions and consist mostly of protons and heavier subatomic particles — just one cosmic ray could disable unlucky satellites or even put a mission to Mars in jeopardy."
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Cosmic Ray Intensity Reaches Highest Levels In 50 years

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  • global cooling (Score:1, Informative)

    by cdn-programmer (468978) <terr AT terralogic DOT net> on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @10:29PM (#29601273)

    The increased cosmic ray flux will undoubtably cause global cooling. The high energy rays and penetrate deep into the atmosphere where they create nucleation points which increase cloud over. The inreased cloud cover reflects more energy into space and the planet will cool.

    This is likely the mechanizm behind the little ice age which occurred during the Maunder minimum between 1645 and 1715.

    At this point solar cycle #24 is more than 2 years late. Solar cycle #25 was predicted to be very weak but #24 was predicted to be more or less normal. The predictions for #24 are proving to be in error.

    A cooling trend can go on for decades.

  • by Jason Pollock (45537) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @10:33PM (#29601303) Homepage

    I was wondering, "Why are cosmic rays so dangerous, It's just protons and electrons, just like the solar wind".

    However, there's a huge energy difference between the two.

    The particles in cosmic radiation have 1x10^20eV and the solar wind is 1x10^3eV

    So, while it's the same "stuff", the cosmic particles are moving a lot faster relative to us.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_wind [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_radiation [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:WTF??? (Score:5, Informative)

    by BlackSabbath (118110) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @10:54PM (#29601417) Homepage

    We know this because we can look for these...
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmogenic_isotope#Natural [wikipedia.org]
    in the geological record.

    Unless of course they were planted there by [insert diety] in which case - ha ha you've been punk'd(TM)!

  • by mbone (558574) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @10:55PM (#29601435)

    The Sun has been very quiet recently, so this is not surprising. Now that the Sunspots are back [westender.com.au] and the Sun is getting more active, I would expect things to go back to normal.

  • Re:WTF??? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Vellmont (569020) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @11:00PM (#29601467)


    How do we know this?

    We understand the theory of what influence cosmic rays numbers. It's the solar cycles and the earth's magnetic field. The magnetic field we have geologic evidence of it's strength. Sunspot numbers have sporadic data going back 400 years (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sunspot_Numbers.png).

    There's plenty of phenomenon we predict using indirect observations and theory.

  • Re:global cooling (Score:3, Informative)

    by Verteiron (224042) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @11:15PM (#29601555) Homepage

    Or vice versa: The screwy solar cycle is messing with the heliopheric current sheet and thus allowing more cosmic rays to enter the system. We know that even minor solar fluctuations can manipulate the termination shock, so the idea is not -entirely- implausible. Dress it up in some Star Trek language and it'll sound more convincing.

  • Re:global cooling (Score:5, Informative)

    by bughunter (10093) <bughunter&earthlink,net> on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @11:33PM (#29601651) Journal

    The high energy rays and penetrate deep into the atmosphere where they create nucleation points which increase cloud over. The inreased cloud cover reflects more energy into space and the planet will cool.

    Why didn't you provide any citations? Perhaps because it was [sciencedaily.com] disproved [discovermagazine.com] in 2007 [wired.com].

    Thirty seconds with google and the keywords "cosmic rays global warming [google.com]" brought a wealth of stories describing research which found no correlation of any kind between cosmic ray flux and cloud cover. Sure, you'll find articles describing this theory, but it's called a "hypothesis," and "controversial" at best. And all those stories are older than the 2008 analysis of MODIS data.

  • Re:Use ECC Memory (Score:3, Informative)

    by DigiShaman (671371) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @11:38PM (#29601681) Homepage

    According to Crucial and other sites that benchmark, going ECC is only 2% slower than non-ECC memory. That's a very good trade off for reliability IMHO.

    As for Intel. Yes, ECC support is restricted to their Xeon line now. You will also need a workstation motherboard. Even though Intel's latest "high-end" desktop gaming board (X58 chipset) supports the Xeon CPU, ECC support is not available. At least, no reference was mentioned in the manual.

    I think my next workstation build will be AMD based.

  • Not a Big Problem. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Suicidal Gir (939232) on Wednesday September 30, 2009 @11:41PM (#29601699)

    I wouldn't raise alarm too much, cosmic rays affect a space craft in mainly three ways: Single Even Upset (SEU), Single Event Latchup (SEL), and Total Ionization Dose (TID) measured in kRad. The higher cosmic rays increase the TID, but all these satellites are built for it and it shouldn't raise an alarm except for very long term missions. SEUs and SELs are what the phrase "just one cosmic ray could disable unlucky satellites or even put a mission to Mars in jeopardy." is mentioning. SEUs aren't too much too worry about, usually nothing too harmful, just a few errors and at worst a reset of some subsystems. The bad one is the SELs. These can cause a temporary short and potentially cause damage. The key thing with SEUs and SELs is that they're typically temporary and the spacecraft's power systems nowadays can easily handle them. The solid state switches/fuses they started with Cassini (and are now typical for NASA missions) are very effective (accidently proven so during integration) and can cut off a shorted subsystem quite fast and prevent damage.

    In a nutshell, don't get your panties in a bunch.

  • by jameskojiro (705701) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @12:10AM (#29601821) Journal

    The solar activity is decreasing we are in a sunspot minimum temps will decrease on the earth and more cosmic rays will mean more rainfall due to the "cloud chamber effect" in the upper atmosphere.

  • Re:Clinton's fault (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 01, 2009 @07:33AM (#29603795)

    With clinton's track record in that department, are we really sure of that?

  • Re:global cooling (Score:2, Informative)

    by macintyred (988926) on Thursday October 01, 2009 @10:54AM (#29605877) Homepage
    Actually, Solar flares correlate with solar activity and, at least in theory, increased solar activity shields Earth from Cosmic Rays. i.e: more solar flares implies more solar activity which implies less cosmic rays reaching earth which implies fewer clouds which implies more sunlight which implies hotter temperatures on the planet which implies global warming.

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