Solar radiation and high-flying aircraft

X-class storms and the danger to flight passengers

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So I am flying on Friday and have done extensive research on flying and pregnancy. I read several specialists on radiation and seemed to come to the conclusion that unless there is an X-category solar flare and subsequent storm... don't worry about flying.

However Murphy's Law has prevailed. Apparently there is now an X class (X3) solar flare and major radiation storm.

NOAA: Solar radiation storms

X-Flare: Sunspot 930 has just unleashed another big solar flare, an X3-class explosion at 0240 UT on Dec. 13th. As a result of the blast, a radiation storm is underway. Based on the energy and number of solar protons streaming past Earth, NOAA ranks the storm as category S2: satellites may experience some glitches and reboots, but astronauts are in no danger.
NOAA which tracks this, rates it a category S2 for radiation

S2, Moderate. Biological: passengers and crew in high-flying aircraft at high latitudes may be exposed to elevated radiation risk.
So could any of you rocket scientists, I know we do have a few on here, put some clarity on this. How long do these X flares usually result in higher atmospheric radiation levels? When would it be considered safe to fly again? Any thoughts?
Oh this is reassuring:

NOTE: An ongoing radiation storm has overwhelmed solar wind sensors onboard NASA's ACE spacecraft. Solar wind readings reported above are temporarily unreliable
Where are you flying too? That will determine a lot of factors on what amount of radiation exposure you could get.
into NYC...I assume as the earth rotates, if it lasts for more than a few hours, than all areas would be Alas, this is TOTALLY out of my area of knowledge.

Here is some info on solar flares...

The Classification of X-ray Solar Flares
or "Solar Flare Alphabet Soup"
back to

A solar flare is an explosion on the Sun that happens when energy stored in twisted magnetic fields (usually above sunspots) is suddenly released. Flares produce a burst of radiation across the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to x-rays and gamma-rays. [more information]Scientists classify solar flares according to their x-ray brightness in the wavelength range 1 to 8 Angstroms. There are 3 categories: X-class flares are big; they are major events that can trigger planet-wide radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms. M-class flares are medium-sized; they can cause brief radio blackouts that affect Earth's polar regions. Minor radiation storms sometimes follow an M-class flare. Compared to X- and M-class events, C-class flares are small with few noticeable consequences here on Earth.

guess I should have put this in the space category.
OMG!! [/center]
Oh this is reassuring:

[quote name='gemini' post='791410' date='Dec 13 2006, 4:32 pm']NOTE: An ongoing radiation storm has overwhelmed solar wind sensors onboard NASA's ACE spacecraft. Solar wind readings reported above are temporarily unreliable
An airplane flies around 6 miles up. ACE is just a bit closer to the Sun at around 930,000 miles.

Do you know what ACE is? Do you know WHERE ACE is?
ACE (the Advanced Compostion Explorer) was launched in 1997 and was expected to run from a minimum of 2 years to around 5 years. It's nine years old, almost double its life expectancy, and still working.

It's also at the L1 point. That's about four times further away from the Earth as the Moon is, and all of that distance in the direction of the Sun. No magnetic fields or belts to protect it.

I assume as the earth rotates
Blasphemy! The Earth is at the center of our universe which, by the way, is about 6,000 years old and was created entirely within a week.

If you want to be really, super-duper extra safe, bring a couple rolls of aluminum foil in your carry-on and wrap yourself (or at least make a you-sized blanket out of it). The other passengerss will laugh at you but you might feel better about the UNKNOWN AND VERY SCARY DANGER THAT YOU'RE MORE THAN HAPPY TO PANIC ABOUT.

You're flying to New York for seven hours, not to the Space Station for six months!

Any chance we might see some good Aurora Borealis at the latitude of Munich in the next days? Is it just a moderately big radiation storm, or something really impressive?
to put in a kinder fashion then our K9 friend. You'll be ok. or more importantly your child will be ok. the amount of radiation you'll recieve is in all probability less than that which you make the child suffer by having a mobile. if though the child is born with three heads...
You're flying to New York for seven hours, not to the Space Station for six months!
Good thing too:

Astronauts Forced To Take Shelter From Violent Solar Storm In Space
FYI...I love google. Gemini, I bet you probably found this already but Ill post it up here for posterity. Theres a similiar Q&A in the health physics society which describes themselves as a scientific and professional organization whose members specialize in occupational and environmental radiation safety.

Q: I am planning a round-trip flight from Washington, DC, to Chicago. I have a particular concern about my exposure to radiation because there are solar flares predicted for that week and I will be in my 9th week of pregnancy during my flights. What are the additional risks of radiation we might be exposed to if our flights occur during solar flares and the implications that it could have on my developing baby?

A: The radiation exposures while flying are not considered high exposures. During your pregnancy you and your fetus will receive about 300 millirad of background radiation, which of course none of us can avoid. In a 10-hour flight you would receive less than 1 millirad. During solar flare periods the exposure may be increased. Some measurements have estimated exposures of 100 times the usual exposure while flying which would bring your exposure in the range of a low-level exposure from many diagnostic radiological procedures. Even this exposure would not increase your risk for birth defects or miscarriage, which is 3% for birth defects and 15% for miscarriage for all healthy women when they begin their pregnancy.

I dont know if this covers an X3 category flare so now back to TT scientists
That is about right and to think it came from googling.

High altitude long haul flights are about the equivalent of a finger xray only less energy and spread out over a longer period of time and more surface area. 100 such trips might be the equivalent of a chest xray or two, but would have to check on the exact measurements to be sure. Or you could wait a few years as low dose radiation is part of the grant that I wrote and we should have some results back in 2008 or 9.
If TV has taught us anything atall, its that people exposed to radiation and solar flares develop super-human powers and shit. That'd be soo sweet. I'd become a super villain. Not only do they get to wear cooler costumes most of the time, they actually earn money. Imagine being fucking superman, and working as a bloody reporter. What a fuckwit. Seriously. Fuckwit. Spiderman can do loads of shit, so what does he do for money? Uses his special web spinning skills to essentially sellotape a camera toa building, then sells the photos. HELLO?!? You stupid fucking idiot. Even if he really wanted to stick to the stupid photos shit, at least web some cameras somewhere like Jenifer Anistons bedroom or something. Fucking idiot.

If you do fly near a flare, and your kid gets super powers, don't let the poor child turn out to be such financial twats as supes and spidey. Please - Don't do it.
I would buy a radiation suit just in case though. Oh, and get some clear plastic and heavy duty tape to make sure the aircraft windows are sealed and you create a radiation-safe area around your seat...
Super villians dont cook numbnuts. They get other people to do it for them and then what would you do for fun. Sure you could be tying girls to railroad tracks or whatever but the good guys would lure you into a cage trap with a dead carcass, a pan, a slab of bacon, a tub o butter, and a bunch of sage. Get this through that thick ginga mop of yours: Don Riina and Evil dont mix. Now stop hijacking the nice ladys serious thread and make me a sandwich. Ill take one of them curry nut jobs youve blabbed on about. Get yourself drunk first so I get a good one. Please.
Super villians dont cook numbnuts.
Oh, for the love of pork-based-snacks, you're a bird, you know fuck all about super villainry. Sure, I don't know fo any that cook, but the point in the super part of super villain, is finding your niche, and forming a character. Therfuckingfore I could be a super villain, whose eveil was based around cooking shit. There you go. Simple. I could plan to destroy new york by putting fucking shitloads of instant mash potato mix into the sewers for example. Not that I'd ever use instant mash mix. Sick. Anyway, I'm sure there's loads I could do. For all you fucking know, I could already exist, and simply put on some clown makeup, backcomb my hair a bit, and be planning to fuck the entire world by selling them fat and sugar laden fast food. Your imagination is fucking shit, its not my fault, its yours. Dont fucking take your frustration at your inadequacies out on me just because I live in a world where I can imagine a super villain who incorporates goose fat and demi glace into his heinous schemes.

make me a sandwich.
now some fun regarding super human powers and radiation shields I expected ...but Bad Doggie, you are just a perpertually miserable pooch. Your only seeming contribution ever to any thread is only at the attempted expense of others (psych 101 chapter on low self esteem). But carry on you miserable pound dog. I can assure you, I have read more on this topic than you, and thus have some concerns (yes, concerns...hardly in panic mode here). Whether they turn out to be justified or not is what I am attempting to find out. As you are not being helpful, witty or even slightly amusing, why don't you simply go away (and I am VERY sure you needed to google ACE).

Anyway, back to people who actually contributed something

Thanks JML, that is one of the sights that I looked at a lot, because it has some very good information from actual scientists. I think pregnant women (and frequent flyers in general) can get a lot of "minimized" information. There is a move to have radiation monitors on planes and then have them fly lower during solar flares, and to make flight attendants categorized as a radiation exposed industry, and thus better regulate their exposure. Flight attendants have significantly higher rates of breast cancer than your average woman (is it linked to increased exposure???)

Eurovol - somewhere on one source I read they stated that a typical 10 hour flight nearer to the poles than the equator is the equivalent of 2 to 3 CXR's. At 10 such flights, one has reached the civilan recommended max for the year, if you went by the radiation limits allowed for people like XR techs.

green tea - the linked page with the solar space weather gives info on the aurora borealis visability.
The explosion hurled a coronal mass ejection toward Earth: movie.

Sky watchers should be alert for auroras when it arrives on Dec. 14th.
Of course the chance of a problem is low, but there are very few real studies out there (for understandable reasons).

And yes during severe solar flares, one can reach their annual recommended max exposure or greater on one flight.
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