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NASA says now is a great time to leave Earth

Published Jun 13th, 2019 12:07AM EDT
solar weather
Image: Justus de Cuveland / imageBROKER/Shutterstock

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When you’re planning on taking a trip it pays to plan ahead, and one of the first things you should do is check the weather forecast. The same is true for space travelers, and with so many missions in the works, NASA is now gazing ahead to see what the space weather forecast is looking like for the upcoming decade, and things appear to be shaping up rather nicely.

Using the most recent data on solar activity and a new predictive formula for forecasting peaks and valleys of solar weather, NASA says that we’re about to experience the calmest decade-or-so of the past two centuries, making right now the perfect time to plan crewed missions to other worlds.

As NASA explains in a new blog post, our star’s solar cycles last around 11 years, with periods of elevated activity occurring in predictable fashion. During highly active periods, sunspots are more common and coronal mass ejections blast charged particles into space.

It’s solar weather like this that NASA would very much like to avoid, as it would mean exposing astronauts to huge amounts of radiation from our star. Here on Earth, the planet’s magnetic field acts like a shield, but astronauts traveling into space wouldn’t have the same protection.

Using decades worth of data on solar activity and estimates, NASA researchers developed what they believe is a more accurate way of predicting the ebbs and flows of our star. The method has already been tested to predict the previous decade of space weather using existing data, and it “performed well,” according to NASA.

Knowing that the Sun is likely to behave itself while NASA and other groups carry out some of their most advanced missions yet won’t necessarily make exploration any easier, but at least it won’t make it any more difficult.

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