Radiation Belt Around Earth Discovered by NASA

    March 1, 2013
    Sean Patterson
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NASA this week revealed that its Van Allen Probes have discovered a third radiation belt around the Earth. Before now, the Earth’s Van Allen belts were thought to be two belts of radiation surrounding the planet.

The newly discovered belt of radiation was observed for four weeks before a shockwave from the sun blew it apart. The new belt could improve researchers’ understanding of how the belts react to space weather, and in particular solar winds. The research was published this week in the journal Science.

“Even 55 years after their discovery, the Earth’s radiation belts still are capable of surprising us and still have mysteries to discover and explain,” said Nicky Fox, Van Allen Probes deputy project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. “We thought we knew the radiation belts, but we don’t. The advances in technology and detection made by NASA in this mission already have had an almost immediate impact on basic science.”

The new belt was detected by the Relativistic Electron Proton Telescope (REPT) on-board the Van Allen Probes. The probes discovered that a region thought to be one belt had actually become two distinct belts with space in between.

“This is the first time we have had such high-resolution instruments look at time, space and energy together in the outer belt,” said Daniel Baker, lead author of the study and REPT instrument lead at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado. “Previous observations of the outer radiation belt only resolved it as a single blurry element. When we turned REPT on just two days after launch, a powerful electron acceleration event was already in progress, and we clearly saw the new belt and new slot between it and the outer belt.”

The Van Allen Probes were launched back in August with the mission of studying the Van Allen belts and how space weather can affect them. By December of last year data from the probes was already revealing to scientists just how much influence the sun has over the Earth’s magnetosphere.

“The fantastic new capabilities and advances in technology in the Van Allen Probes have allowed scientists to see in unprecedented detail how the radiation belts are populated with charged particles and will provide insight on what causes them to change, and how these processes affect the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere,” said John Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator for science.

  • Peter

    “A region thought to be two belts had actually become two distinct belts with space in between.”

    Probably should be “A region thought to be a single belt.” Also, “actually become” suggests that a single belt had split in two, but this is not clear.

    Last: WebProNews needs to provide links to the original NASA source, not just another WPN page about NASA.

  • http://www.ssrichardmontgomery.com ron

    Maybe now they will be able to explain how the unshielded negatives from the photographs taken on the moon landing came through the belts un fogged by the high levels of radiation. Or not… (think airport x-ray machine on your holiday photographs (not digital, which it does not effect) x 100 or more in strength.
    This experiment 4 years ago I carried out of exposing a roll of 35mm film to radiation after taking pictures of the ground with a ball of foil to represent moon Lander/or not.. shows the pincushion fogging effect of the radiation on the negative, of which there is none on any of the NASA photographs taken on the moon /or not.

  • Robert in Canada

    It is 100% certain that solar activity affects climate on Earth more than anything else.

    Do these belts affect also Earth’s climate?

    Ice caps at both poles are larger and temperatures are colder now than anytime since we started keeping such records.

    Do these belts impact polar ice and temps in some way?