Over the last few decades humans have not only learned that we are traveling through space on our own very special spacecraft called Planet Earth but that the journey we take around the Sun each year is actually a very hazardous journey. In some ways we are playing Russian roulette with a random set of rock and metal bullets that were first fired at our small six sextillion-ton planet millions of years ago. These bullets are potentially hazardous asteroids, bolides, as well as comets that streak down toward the Sun from the Oort Cloud every few years.
In the last few decades we have discovered more and more evidence of the types of cosmic hazards that lurk in space. In 1980s we discovered a huge circular crater that is 180 kilometers across and 900 meters deep. This perfectly shaped crater ranges along the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan plateau and extends well out into the Gulf. By the 1990s space imaging was able to confirm that this was indeed the remnant of the giant asteroid that smashed into Earth and created the great K-T mass extinction.
However, the Handbook of Cosmic Hazards and Planetary Defense is about much more than just potentially hazardous asteroids, meteorites, and comets. We will also explore the many dangers that come from solar flares, coronal mass ejections, and cosmic radiation. We will examine the latest in space research about the Van Allen belts, the ozone layer, and Earth’s magnetosphere in terms of how these natural protective phenomena shield us from high energy radiation and particles that could have a deadly effect on humans and indeed all animal and plant life on our very fragile biosphere. Scores of scientists, researchers, and experts from around the world as well as representatives from the world’s space agencies have been assembled to create this up-to-date and constantly evolving reference resource.
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International Space University
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