How Hostile Is Space?


The experts have no certainty of what is forthcoming. Basically, “we won’t know until it hits us so beter to be vigilant and prepare for it.”

Space may seem calm, but it more hostile than being on Earth. Invisible radiation is an issue for space enthusiasts and scientific instruments.

Its something we need to take seriously. Substituting electronic devices to do human tasks reduces risk, but it doesn’t eliminate all risk. Every active device in space is dealing with such risks right now – be it Rosetta the comet chaser or the satellite responsible for streaming live sports. These cause many problem for designers of space instruments, on which millions of taxpayer’s money is spent and which are out there to collect important information and provide vital services.

Beyond the risk of colliding with other objects in space, there are four main dangers for such : the empty vacuum, extreme temperature variability, small meteorite impacts and .

The temperature variation in space can be enormous. If an astronaut’s back is facing the sun and the front is not, the temperature difference can be as much as 275°F. The vacuum force in space is large too, which can cause any unsealed instruments to break apart. But both sensitivity to vacuum and temperature change are relatively easy to deal with, and can also be monitored with simple sensors on board the device.

Small meteorite impacts are hard to predict but remain rare. What causes the most damage is the the constant flux of radiation in the form of high energy particles. These particles cause to electronics, which causes them to become unreliable over time and eventually fail.

There are three main radiation sources in space. The first source consists of galactic particles, originating within the Milky Way, along with extra-galactic particles, originating beyond the Milky Way. These can be very high energy, for example the “Oh-My-God particle“, which was a proton that had the energy equivalent to “a brick falling on your toe”.

The second source consists of solar particles, forming the solar wind, which are expelled by the sun and are lower energy but much more numerous. The third source consists of trapped particles, which form invisible belts around planets with a strong enough magnetic field, such as that of the Earth. These last two sources fluctuate with solar activity, which follows an 11-year cycle.Adapted from: Physorg

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