Thursday, September 27, 2012

How are we Affected by Space Radiation?

How are we
Affected by Space

There are many ways this can
happen, but the two most
troubling ones have to do
with electrical power
blackouts and human
radiation exposure.

The March 24, 1940 solar storm
caused a temporary disruption
of electrical service in New
England, New York,
Pennsylvania, Minnesota,
Quebec and Ontario. A storm on February 9-10, 1958 caused
a power transformer failure
at the British Columbia Hydro
and Power Authority. On
August 2, 1972, the Bureau of
Reclamation power station in Watertown, South Dakota
was subjected to large swings
in power line voltages up to
25,000 volts. Similar voltage
swings were reported by
Wisconsin Power and Light, Madison Gas and Electric, and
Wisconsin Public Service
Corporation. A 230,000-volt
transformer at the British
Columbia Hydro and Power
Authority exploded, and Manitoba Hydro in Canada
recorded power drops from
164 to 44 megawatts in a
matter of a few minutes, in
the power it was supplying to

Perhaps the most dramatic,
recent impact occurred in
March 1989 during the peak of
the last sunspot cycle, when
the sun produced one of the
most powerful storms ever recorded. On March 13, 1989
Alaskan and Scandinavian
observers were treated to a
spectacular auroral display. In
fact, this display was seen as
far south as the Mediterranean and Japan. Although many
millions of people marveled at
this beautiful spectacle, many
millions more were not so
happy about it. Hydro-Quebec
on Saint James Bay did the best it could to stabilize the
power surges its lines received
but ultimately failed the
challenge. For 9 hours, large
portions of Quebec were
plunged into darkness.

Although the atmosphere
protects most airline flights
well from space radiation,
transcontinental flights taking
the polar route pass through
regions of Earth's magnetic field where particles become
concentrated. Airline flight
crews who travel these
routes frequently can
accumulate as many as .9 rem
a year. This is more than the allowed annual dosages for
nuclear plant operators and
comparable to what shuttle
astronauts receive during a
typical one-week mission.

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