50 years ago, cosmic rays may have caused Apollo astronauts to see lights

Mild flashes no hazard for brief house flightsScience News, Could 12, 1973

The sunshine flashes and streaks seen by [Apollo] astronauts have lengthy been attributed to high-energy, heavy cosmic particles (HZE) passing by means of the eyes…. A brand new report … concludes that the particles usually are not a critical hazard for brief journeys to the moon or Earth-orbital missions corresponding to Skylab.


The mechanism behind the flashes described by Apollo astronauts stays a thriller. Maybe the particles, that are elements of c­osmic rays, emit radiation as they cross by means of a part of the attention. Or maybe they trick nerve cells to create the phantasm of sunshine. Nonetheless the flashes occur, they’re nonetheless a difficulty for astronauts. In 2006, about 80 % of NASA and European House Company astronauts reported experiencing the flashes. How the phenomenon impacts astronaut well being after months or years in deep house is unclear. As NASA plans crewed missions to Mars and the moon, scientists are devising new methods to protect astronauts from radiation (SN: 7/4/20 & 7/18/20, p. 18), corresponding to moveable magnetic shields that may deflect cosmic rays.

Helen Thompson

Helen Thompson is the multimedia editor. She has undergraduate levels in biology and English from Trinity College and a grasp’s diploma in science writing from Johns Hopkins College.


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