Astronauts Take Cover from Solar Storms - Better Predictions

The state of the weather is a problem on Earth with predictions not always being correct. In space, however, there is a more serious weather problem. Solar storms can kill. Detectors at the South Pole measure neutrons. When the level reaches a certain point astronauts on the International Space Station shelter in a shielded capsule.

Advances have been made in predicting solar storms which can destroy satellites. Unfortunately, little can be done to protect them, but the safety of astronauts is paramount.

Storms move at different speeds. The faster the speed the more energy in particles, which makes them more intense and dangerous. Ironically, because there are more low-energy particles in a solar storm they do most overall damage. The early arrival of these low-energy particles does forewarn the onslaught of the high-energy neutrons.

The number of solar flares gives an indication of future activity, though this is only a possibility at best. Neutron sensors at the South Pole measure neutrons emitted when particles slam into atomic nuclei of gases in the Earth"s upper atmosphere.
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