In a terrifying first moment, scientists have spotted a solar flare in 2021 large enough to be seen simultaneously on Earth, the Moon and Mars for the first time
We are so used to our human standards that it is sometimes difficult to comprehend just how vast and powerful the forces of nature normally are. On October 28, 2021, a coronal mass ejected from the Sun was so large and energetic that it is difficult to describe in everyday terms. In this case, the mass of gas, plasma, and energetic particles was so large that it spread across a wide area of the inner solar system, from Earth to Mars, which on that day was 250 million kilometers from our planet.
According to ESA, the burst was detected by a fleet of spacecraft including the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), the Curiosity Mars Rover, the Chang’e-4 Moon Lander, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and the Earth orbiter CROPIS, the Solar Orbiter, SOHO and BepiColombo.
The event was so powerful that it also penetrated the Earth’s magnetic field and was detected at the Earth’s surface in a so-called “ground level rise.” This type of phenomenon is relatively rare; since observations began in the 1940s, only 73 phenomena have occurred.
danger to astronauts
Scientists are very interested in such phenomena because of the plans for manned space missions to the Moon and Mars. Outside of Earth’s atmosphere and strong magnetic field, astronauts are exposed to radiation from solar flares and coronal flares. These so-called “radiation storms” can produce doses of radiation strong enough to kill a person within weeks of exposure. One such eruption happened in August 1972, but luckily it happened between the US Apollo 16 and 17 missions, so no damage was done.
In the future, however, space missions will rely on surveillance networks to alert them to dangerous solar activity, and spacecraft will need to be equipped with radiation containment bunkers to which astronauts can be evacuated. Even on the relatively well-protected International Space Station, bedrooms and kitchens have extra-thick walls for radiation emergencies.
This event illustrates not only the dangers for astronauts, but also for the inhabitants of the earth. If the eruption had been aimed directly at Earth, it could have had effects similar to the Carrington event in 1859. This massive eruption hit the earth directly, not only causing spectacular auroras, but also creating an electromagnetic storm that damaged the power grid. worldwide telegraphy and even caused fires in telegraph stations.
If that could happen with a system as primitive as telegraph wires, imagine what it could mean for the global power and communication networks that now span every continent. It is not surprising that armoring and hardening of vulnerable areas is required.
“Our calculations of past surface surge events show that, on average, one event every 5.5 years would have exceeded the safe dose on the moon had radiation protection not been in place. “Understanding these events is crucial for future manned missions to the lunar surface,” said scientist Jingnan Guo, who studied the Oct. 28 event.
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