Solar radiation

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Sources of solar radiation

Solar radiation can be split into two varieties: electromagnetic and ionized particles.

  • The electromagnetic spectrum is radiated from a near-"Black Body" at 5800K.
  • High energy ions can be excited by solar wind interactions and/or emitted directly from solar flares or subsequent Coronal Mass Ejections. A solar proton event (SPE) occurs when the intensity of this radiation temporarily spikes after a solar flare or CME. In an SPE, the intensity of particulate radiation can increase by up to 5 orders of magnitude over the normal level, with radiation returning to the baseline level after several days.[1] 


Occasional solar flares produce particularly high doses. Some SPEs were observed by MARIE that were not seen by sensors near Earth due to the fact that SPEs are directional. Astronauts on Mars could be warned of SPEs by sensors closer to the Sun and presumably take shelter during these events. This would imply that an Early Warning System (possibly a network of sensors in orbit around the sun or a single sensor in Lagrangian point L1) might be needed to ensure all SPEs threatening Mars were detected early enough.

The worst part of the storm lasts for several hours, so habitats and space craft will likely be equipped with a small Storm shelter with high radiation protection. The crew will hide inside during the worst of the storm.

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  1. Schimmerling W. (2011, Feb 5). The Space Radiation Environment: An Introduction.