The School of Physics at UNSW presents this year’s National Sciences Week’s Einstein Lecture on Space Weather and the Path to Mars. Opened by UNSW astrophysicists, Professor Sarah Brough and Dr Graeme Melville, this year’s speakers will be Professor Iver Cairns from the University of Sydney and Associate Professor Susanna Guatelli from the University of Wollongong,
Professor Cairns will discuss activity on the Sun’s surface which creates a type of weather called space weather. Taking the form of solar flares, coronal mass ejections, bursts of X-rays, radio waves, and energetic particles that travel across interplanetary space, space weather effects at the Earth in significant ways. It damages and increases drag on satellites, causes electrical blackouts, and it also produces the Earth’s aurora. Although the Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field protects us from the majority of solar wind effects, astronauts do not have the same protection from solar radiation and galactic cosmic rays. The risks from space weather to humans travelling to and living on Mars are thus large.
Professor Guatelli will discuss the radiation hazard of interplanetary flights, which is currently one of the major obstacles to human-crewed missions to Mars. Highly energetic, heavy, charged particles from the galaxy - the so-called galactic cosmic rays - are extremely difficult to shield in space vehicles and can produce long-term radiation effects, such as cancer and damage to the nervous and cardiovascular systems. In addition, unpredictable storms of solar energetic particles may expose the crew to doses that lead to acute radiation effects.
Previous Einstein Lectures Previous Einstein Lectures include The Quantum Computing Revolution, by Michelle Simmons, the UNSW Scientia Professor in the School of Physics, UNSW.