Cosmicopia: An abundance of cosmic rays – http://helios.gsfc.nasa.gov
Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:
- What is an isotope?
- What are galactic cosmic rays?
- What’s the effect of cosmic rays on eyesight?
- What are the 10 most abundant elements in cosmic rays?
From the website:
“Cosmicopia contains an abundance (a cornucopia, if you will) of information about cosmic rays, the Earth’s magnetosphere, the Sun, space weather, and other exciting topics in space science. Brought to you by the ACE mission and the cosmic ray group at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, this site is aimed at the general public and intended to be accessible to interested readers without a background in this area of science.”
The site is part tutorial and part links to other resources. It is broken up into four sections: Basics, Cosmic Rays, Sun and Space Weather. The Cosmic Rays section includes a FAQ page.
Story and Scene Ideas
Writers need to know about cosmic rays, the magnetosphere and space weather if they send characters into space for any extended period of time using 21st Century technology. If your character is in an unshielded ship headed to Mars when a solar storm breaks, he will die. Add some shielding or explain how your character has been genetically altered to resist radiation. Same goes for when she and her companions are exploring Mars. One the first tasks should be to find or create shelter.
Knowing about space weather can help add spice to stories on earth too. A strong enough Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) could potentially bring down power grids and scramble satellite communications if the proper precautions are not taken.