Cosmic Rays and their effect on earth

Reposted from:  Space Weather, including links, with my own emphasis noted.
Updated: Sept. 29 2016 // Next Flight: Oct. 1, 2016

Sept. 20, 2016: Readers, thank you for your patience while we continue to develop this new section of We’ve been working to streamline our data reduction, allowing us to post results from balloon flights much more rapidly, and we have developed a new data product, shown here:

This plot displays radiation measurements not only in the stratosphere, but also at aviation altitudes. Dose rates are expressed as multiples of sea level. For instance, we see that boarding a plane that flies at 25,000 feet exposes passengers to dose rates ~10x higher than sea level. At 40,000 feet, the multiplier is closer to 50x. These measurements are made by our usual cosmic ray payload as it passes through aviation altitudes en route to the stratosphere over California.

What is this all about? Approximately once a week, and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus fly space weather balloons to the stratosphere over California. These balloons are equipped with radiation sensors that detect cosmic rays, a surprisingly “down to Earth” form of space weather. Cosmic rays can seed clouds, trigger lightning, and penetrate commercial airplanes. Furthermore, there are studies (#1, #2, #3, #4) linking cosmic rays with cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death in the general population. Our latest measurements show that cosmic rays are intensifying, with an increase of more than 12% since 2015:

Why are cosmic rays intensifying? The main reason is the sun. Solar storm clouds such as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) sweep aside cosmic rays when they pass by Earth. During Solar Maximum, CMEs are abundant and cosmic rays are held at bay. Now, however, the solar cycle is swinging toward Solar Minimum, allowing cosmic rays to return. Another reason could be the weakening of Earth’s magnetic field, (see also Climate and Earth’s Magnetic Field) which helps protect us from deep-space radiation.

The radiation sensors onboard our helium balloons detect X-rays and gamma-rays in the energy range 10 keV to 20 MeV. These energies span the range of medical X-ray machines and airport security scanners.

The data points in the graph above correspond to the peak of the Reneger-Pfotzer maximum, which lies about 67,000 feet above central California. When cosmic rays crash into Earth’s atmosphere, they produce a spray of secondary particles that is most intense at the entrance to the stratosphere. Physicists Eric Reneger and Georg Pfotzer discovered the maximum using balloons in the 1930s and it is what we are measuring today.


Online Moon Phase Calendar

Sometimes you just want to know the phase of the moon. Is it waxing (getting larger) or waning (getting smaller)? When will be the full moon exactly? Stop any arguments about whether the moon is full today or not. Or maybe you are planting by the moon and need to keep track of that.

Here is an incredibly cool site with that kind of moon information.

I have created a static image for August 2016 because that image won’t show any other way.

August 2016 moonphase

However, click on the site link and you will see where you can find the moon phase calendar, full moon calendar, and other cool moon information.

Moon Giant website – Today’s moon phase


Satellite images show moon landing sites

I have always wondered if it was possible to see the flag on the moon and other remnants of human visitation. I later (like many) saw the sensationalist show that attempted to make the case that there was a conspiracy to fake the moon landing(s?).  My opinion was that it was interesting, but ultimately the product of poorly educated and poorly trained minds who seek the most peculiar conspiracy theories to make their lives, and their view of this world, more interesting rather than face the frightening implications and challenges of clear corruption and overt “conspiracies” in the day-to-day world, which could challenge them to actually get involved with fixing them, and all the ugliness that could go with that (without the sexiness of having a “cult following”).

About 10 years ago I actually met someone who worked for NASA in a public relations capacity and talked about the subject. I also suggested that it would be helpful, as well as interesting, to put up satellite images of the area of the moon landings on their website. Based on his facial expressions and response I don’t think I am far off when I say that they could be fairly characterized as a bunch of interesting science nerds/geeks (not your typical scientifically ignorant (but duplicitous) social engineers &/or politicians), and faking a moon landing is the sort of thing that would never occur to them. I am glad they finally did put up the images.

However, this is not intended to be an exhaustive discussion, so I will be brief. For grasping relative size, if we could put an image of the United States in the sky it would cover about the same visual area as the moon, so you can grasp how seeing small items would be tricky. However, since we have spacecraft orbiting the moon taking high-resolution images of the surface, we can now see where Apollo 11 and others landed, and the flags are all standing, except Apollo 11 where it blew over because it was placed too close to where the craft was when it launched.

This image of the Apollo 11 landing site captured from just 24 km (15 miles) above the surface provides LRO’s best look yet at humanity’s first venture to another world.

“You can see the remnants of their first steps as dark regions around the Lunar Module (LM) and in dark tracks that lead to the scientific experiments the astronauts set up on the surface. The Passive Seismic Experiment Package (PSEP) provided the first lunar seismic data, returning data for three weeks after the astronauts left, and the Laser Ranging RetroReflector (LRRR) allows precise measurements to be collected to this day. You can even spot the discarded cover of the LRRR. Another trail leads toward Little West crater around 50 meters (164 feet) to the east of the LM. This was an unplanned excursion near the end of the two and a half hours spent on the surface. Armstrong ran over to get a look inside the crater, and this was the farthest either astronaut ventured from the landing site. Compared to Apollo 12 and 14, which allowed for more time on the surface, and Apollo 15, 16, and 17, which had the benefit of a Lunar Roving Vehicle, Armstrong and Aldrin’s surface activities were quite restricted. Their tracks cover less area than a typical city block!” – NASA

The Apollo 12 landing site in Oceanus Procellarum imaged during the second LRO low-altitude campaign. (NAC Image M175428601R) Image credit: NASA Goddard/Arizona State University

“This image shows the remnants of not one, but two missions to the moon. Apollo 12 astronauts Pete Conrad and Alan Bean demonstrated that a precision lunar landing with the Apollo system was possible, enabling all of the targeted landings that followed. Bean and Conrad collected rock samples and made field observations, which resulted in key discoveries about lunar geology. They also collected and returned components from the nearby U.S. Surveyor 3 spacecraft, which landed at the site almost two-and-a-half years previously, providing important information to engineers about how materials survive in the lunar environment.”  – NASA

NAC image of the Apollo 14 landing site acquired 25 January 2011. Descent stage of lunar module Antares in center, image width is 500 meters [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

“The LROC Narrow Angle Cameras continue to image the Apollo landing sites as the mission progresses. Every time LRO passes overhead, the Sun is at a different position so each image gives a different perspective. Repeat imaging also serves LROC cartographic goals. Since the position of the lunar modules and other pieces of hardware are very accurately known, the LROC team can check the accuracy of the mission-provided ephemeris.” – NASA

Apollo 15 landing site imaged from an altitude of 15.5 miles (25 km). The Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) is parked to the far right, and the Lunar Module descent stage is in the center. (M175252641L,R) Image credit: NASA Goddard/Arizona State University

“The Apollo 15 Lunar Module (LM) Falcon set down on the Hadley plains (26.132°N, 3.634°E) a mere 2 kilometers from Hadley Rille. The goals: sample the basalts that compose the mare deposit, explore a lunar rille for the first time, and search for ancient crustal rocks. Additionally, Dave Scott and Jim Irwin deployed the third Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) and unveiled the first Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV). The ALSEP consisted of several experiments that were powered by a Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) and sent back valuable scientific data to the Earth for over six years after the astronauts left. This new LROC NAC image taken from low altitude shows the hardware and tracks in even more detail.” – NASA


High-sun image of the Apollo 16 landing site showing the lunar module descent stage, various pieces of equipment, and disturbed lunar soil (seen as darker lines and areas) which marks where John Young and Charles Duke traversed in the spring of 1972. The labels on the image are for the Lunar Module (LM), the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP), the Radioisotopic Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) that powered the ALSEP, and a line of geophones (devices that take seismic readings) that extended west by northwest from the ALSEP station. LROC image M109134835L, 296 meters across (about 971 feet). Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University

“The lunar module Orion landed in the Descartes Highlands of the moon on April 21, 1972. The Apollo 16 mission targeted a highland region. Originally thought to be a volcanic site, the samples returned by Apollo 16 actually indicated that the highlands of the moon primarily consist of impact-formed rocks (breccias), a substantial scientific result.

Today’s featured image is an LROC NAC image of the Apollo 16 landing site, acquired when the sun was nearly overhead, in contrast to a previous image of the site. High sun causes white and metallic artifacts left on the surface by Young and Duke to stand out in high contrast as they reflect the noon-day sun back at LROC. The Apollo 16 astronauts churned up the lunar soil (regolith) as they moved about exploring the moon, and this disturbed material shows up as dark lines and patches. Since the astronauts spent a fair amount of time around the Lunar Module during their three extra-vehicular activities, the bright lunar module appears to have a dark halo. The same dark halo appears around the parked rover.” – NASA

Region of Taurus Littrow valley around the Apollo 17 landing site. Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

“LRO maneuvered into its 50-km mapping orbit on September 15. The next pass over the Apollo 17 landing site resulted in images with more than two times better resolution than previously acquired. At the time of this recent overflight the Sun was high in the sky (28° incidence angle) helping to bring out subtle differences in surface brightness. The descent stage of the lunar module Challenger is now clearly visible, at 50 cm per pixel (angular resolution) the descent stage deck is 8 pixels across (4 meters), also note that the legs are also now distinguishable. The descent stage served as the launch pad for the ascent stage as it blasted off for a rendezvous with the command module America on 14 December 1972. Tracks are clearly visible and can be followed to the east, where astronauts Jack Schmitt and Gene Cernan set up the Surface Electrical Properties experiment (SEP). Cernan drove the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) in an intersecting north-south and east-west course to mark positions for laying out the SEP 35-meter antennas (circle labeled “SEP” marks the area of the SEP transmitter). The dark area just below the SEP experiment is where the astronauts left the rover, in a prime spot for monitoring the liftoff.”


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