Recent research shows that the space age has coincided with a period of unusually high solar activity, called a grand maximum. Isotopes in ice sheets and tree rings tell us that this grand solar maximum is one of 24 during the last 9,300 years and suggest the high levels of solar magnetic field seen over the space age will reduce in future.
This decline will cause a reduction in sunspot numbers and explosive solar events, but those events that do take place could be more damaging.
Graduate student Luke Barnard of the University of Reading will present new results on 'solar climate change' in his paper at the National Astronomy Meeting in Manchester.
The level of radiation in the space environment is of great interest to scientists and engineers as it poses various threats to man-made systems including damage to electronics on satellites. It can also be a health hazard to astronauts and to a lesser extent the crew of high-altitude aircraft.
The main sources of radiation are galactic cosmic rays (GCRs), which are a continuous flow of highly energetic particles from outside our solar system and solar energetic particles (SEPs), which are accelerated to high energies in short bursts by explosive events on the Sun.