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Could you protect astronauts from cosmic radiation by creating a magnetic field around their spaceship? © Alamy

Could you protect astronauts from cosmic radiation by creating a magnetic field around their spaceship?

Published: 17th March, 2022 at 11:00
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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.

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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.

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Asked by: Hannah Graham, Bath

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