Is this man-made 'bubble' shielding Earth from strong space radiation?
- Author: Carolyn Briggs May 19, 2017,
May 19, 2017, 22:59
Seriously, who would have guessed that missions with names like Argus, Teak and Starfish would have this kind of an impact?
Back in 2012, NASA set out two powerful space probes for working in tandem with each other as they zoomed through the Van Allen Belts of Earth at approximate speeds of 3,200 km/h (2,000 mph). Our actions are having an effect on the space beyond Earth, but fortunately, this time it is something beneficial.
Geomagnetic storms are more disruptive now than in the past because of our greater dependence on technical systems that can be affected by electric currents. To those unknown, Earth is encircled by two such radiation belts alongside an impermanent third belt and the inner belt is spread out from almost 640 to 9,600 km (400 to 6,000 miles) on the top of Earth's surface, while its outer belt is stretched to an altitude of almost 13,500 to 58,000 km (8,400 to 36,000 miles). The tests were associated with the strained utility grids in Hawaii and satellite disturbance.
During the cold war, the Soviet Union and the United States conducted several nuclear explosions in the atmosphere and space. Upon explosion, a first impact wave ousted an extending fireball of plasma, a hot gas of electrically charged particles. The energetic particles released by the test likely followed Earth's magnetic field lines to the Polynesian island nation, inducing the aurora.
The Teak test, conducted on August 1, 1958, was eminent for the simulated aurora that came about. The test was conducted over Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean.
Up until 1963, both the USA and Soviet governments conducted over 500 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests.
The tests caused geomagnetic storms detected from Sweden all the way to Arizona, with two high-speed waves of particles traveling at the speed of 1,860 miles per second and nearly 500 miles per second.
Indeed, looking at similar images taken in the 1960s the Van Allen radiation belts were able to reach far closer to our planet.
This bubble is even seen by spacecraft high above Earth's surface, such as Nasa's Van Allen Probes.
As the USA space agency announced on Wednesday, the Van Allen space probes have detected a new, artificial bubble surrounding Earth that was the result of the interplay between very low frequency (VLF) radio communications and high-energy radiation particles.
While analyzing data from the Van Allen Probes, scientists realized the VLF bubble often corresponds with the lower limit of the Earth's radiation belts, streams of charged particles held in place by Earth's magnetic field.
These belts are regions within the magnetosphere where high-energy protons and electrons are trapped by Earth's magnetic field.