Since the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts in in the Earth’s upper atmosphere in 1958, space scientists have believed that these belts consisted of two doughnut-shaped rings of highly charged particles — an inner ring of high-energy electrons and energetic positive ions, and an outer ring of high-energy electrons.
However, in February of this year, a team of scientists reported in the journal Science the surprising discovery of a previously unknown third radiation ring. This narrow ring had briefly circled the Earth between the inner and outer rings in September 2012 and then almost completely disappeared.
How did this temporary radiation belt appear and dissipate? (more…)