Tag Archives: james van allen

Scientists solve a decades-old mystery in the Earth’s upper atmosphere

New research published in the journal Nature resolves decades of scientific controversy over the origin of the extremely energetic particles known as ultra-relativistic electrons in the Earth’s near-space environment and is likely to influence our understanding of planetary magnetospheres throughout the universe.

Discovering the processes that control the formation and ultimate loss of these electrons in the Van Allen radiation belts — the rings of highly charged particles that encircle the Earth at a range of about 1,000 to 50,000 kilometers above the planet’s surface — is a primary science objective of the recently launched NASA Van Allen Probes mission. Understanding these mechanisms has important practical applications, because the enormous amounts of radiation trapped within the belts can pose a significant hazard to satellites and spacecraft, as well astronauts performing activities outside a craft. (more…)

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Storm-chasing Spacecraft

A U-led experiment flies on a NASA mission to Earth’s radiation belts

The story goes that when Earth’s Van Allen Radiation Belts were first discovered, scientists were so amazed by the intensity of radiation, they thought they’d stumbled onto a Soviet nuclear test.

But they soon discovered that Earth is girdled by two concentric, doughnut-shaped regions of space, churning with radiation from protons, electrons, and other charged subatomic particles trapped in Earth’s magnetic field. (more…)

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