Scientists unravelling mysteries of Earth`s Van Allen radiation belts
  • This Section
  • Latest
  • Web Wrap
Last Updated: Thursday, December 05, 2013, 12:25
Washington: Researchers are unravelling the longstanding mysteries surrounding the Van Allen radiation belts that circle Earth.

The discovery used measurements taken by a University of New Hampshire-led instrument on board NASA's Van Allen Probes twin spacecraft to reveal that the high-energy particles populating the radiation belts can be accelerated to nearly the speed of light.

This mode of action is analogous to that of a particle accelerator like the Large Hadron Collider.

However, in this case, the Earth's vast magnetic field, or magnetosphere, which contains the Van Allen belts, revs up drifting electrons to ever-higher speeds as they circle the planet from west to east.

Co-author Harlan Spence , director of the UNH Institute for the Study of , and Space, principal scientist for the ECT, said that the acceleration they first reported operates on the scale size of an electron's gyromotion-it is a really local process, maybe only a few hundred meters in size.

He said that they're we're seeing this large-scale, global motion involving ultra low-frequency waves pulsing through Earth's magnetosphere and operating across vast distances up to hundreds of thousands of kilometers.

Spence asserted that with the Van Allen Probes, I like to think there's no place for these particles to hide because each spacecraft is spinning and 'glimpses' the entire sky with its detector 'eyes', so we're essentially getting a 360-degree view in terms of direction, position, energy, and time.

The discovery has been published in the journal Nature Communications.


First Published: Thursday, December 05, 2013, 12:25

comments powered by Disqus