Recently been reading a fantastic book called ‘The Sun Kings‘ about the start of modern astronomy and the impact on earth of the sunspot cycles. Whilst doing some further research into solar flares I came across this article posted today:
Galactic cosmic rays have just hit a Space Age high, a NASA spacecraft finds.
“In 2009, cosmic ray intensities have increased 19% beyond anything we’ve seen in the past 50 years,” said Richard Mewaldt of Caltech. “The increase is significant, and it could mean we need to re-think how much radiation shielding astronauts take with them on deep-space missions.”
The cause of the surge is solar minimum, a deep lull in solar activity that began around 2007 and continues today. Researchers have long known that cosmic rays go up when solar activity goes down. Right now solar activity is as weak as it has been in modern times, setting the stage for what Mewaldt calls “a perfect storm of cosmic rays.”
“We’re experiencing the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century,” says Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center, “so it is no surprise that cosmic rays are at record levels for the Space Age.”
Another article here on the the same topic.