Could you protect astronauts from cosmic radiation by creating a magnetic field around their spaceship?
As we venture out into the cosmos, protection from radiation will be critical.
Dangerous energetic particles emitted by the Sun are mostly deflected by the Earth’s protective magnetic bubble, called the magnetosphere, or absorbed by the atmosphere. Astronauts outside this relatively safe environment, on the Moon or Mars, for example, would require some other means of protection if they are to avoid the harmful effects of this radiation.
It has been demonstrated that a 1 Tesla magnet (similar to the strength of magnets in an MRI machine) would be able to provide a magnetic shield about 100-200m across. This is technically feasible and would be capable of deflecting the majority of harmful solar particles.
- How long would it take an astronaut to walk around the Moon?
- Why would a spacewalking astronaut float off if not tethered to the craft?
- Why do astronauts wear white suits?
- What would astronauts eat on Mars?
Asked by: Hannah Graham, Bath
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- This article first appeared in issue 372 of BBC Science Focus Magazine – find out how to subscribe here