A recent study conducted by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) has confirmed that there is no additional exposure to cosmic radiation at cruising altitude off the coast of Brazil. The study, known as the Atlantic Kiss mission, involved measurement flights to investigate the effects of the South Atlantic Anomaly on aircraft passengers and crew.
The South Atlantic Anomaly is caused by a displacement of Earth’s magnetic field, which results in radiation belts surrounding Earth reaching closer to the surface in the Atlantic Ocean off the Brazilian coast. In low-Earth orbit, radiation levels are elevated in this area. However, the DLR research team found that at cruising altitude, which is approximately 43,000 feet or just over 13 kilometers, there is no noticeable increase in radiation exposure.
The team conducted measurements during flights from Hamburg to Mount Pleasant (Falkland Islands) and back to Germany on a Lufthansa Airbus A350-900. They used various instruments, including a 40-kilogram neutron probe and semiconductor detectors, to investigate the radiation field. The results of the study confirmed the team’s model calculations and showed no significant contribution to the radiation field at flight altitudes in the South Atlantic Anomaly region.
The researchers emphasized that fears of increased radiation exposure at flight altitudes in this region are scientifically unfounded. The measurements were conducted under stable space weather conditions, with low solar activity. Solar activity drives the solar wind, which affects the number of energetic particles from the Galaxy that reach Earth. During the Atlantic Kiss mission, the low solar activity resulted in comparatively intense levels of cosmic radiation.
Overall, this study provides detailed evidence that passengers and crew on aircraft flying at cruising altitude off the coast of Brazil are not exposed to additional radiation from the South Atlantic Anomaly. The findings have been published in a scientific journal by Nature, further validating the scientific understanding of cosmic radiation and its effects on aviation.