The Van Allen belts are radiation strips located around planet Earth and they have been found to have an invisible shield located within them. The belts are made up of highly energetic particles and they stay put due to the fact that the planet has a magnetic field surrounding it. The pair are permanent and when space weather is being extra difficult, more might show up temporarily.
The two Van Allen belts are located in the Earth’s atmosphere where radiation levels change quite frequently. The majority of particles that are thought to create the belts are believed to be solar winds and various other cosmic particles. The Van Allen belts are situated inside the planet’s magnetosphere. They have both protons and electrons that create their make-up. The belts are extremely dangerous to any satellites that Earth sends up. When building the satellites, much care has to be taken in order to shield their complex components.
Because of all these problems, scientists were rather shocked when they discovered that the Earth had an invisible sort of shield helping to protect the planet from all the killer electrons out in space located in the Van Allen belts. The protons and electrons have been known to race around Earth at extremely high rates of speed. The high energy particles have been recorded going at nearly 100,000 miles per second. These elements, which are detained in two distinct sections above the Earth’s atmosphere, are what are recognized as being able to cause the severe damage to satellites in the Van Allen belts and also even carry a threat toward astronauts venturing past the orbit of Earth.
It was in 2013 when Dr. Daniel Baker, who is a professor at the University of Colorado, looked at information from NASA probes, which had been used to examine the belts and they ended up finding a third belt. It was located in between the outer and inner belts. However, it seemed to appear and disappear with the coming and going of space weather. It only was apparent for around four weeks and then it appeared that the Sun burned it off.
Astronomers believe that the Van Allen belts are actually made from two different methods. The inner belt, which consists mostly of protons, is basically deterioration of neutrons which are themselves the consequence of cosmic ray impacts in the planet’s upper atmosphere. The outer belt comprises of mostly electrons. These are inserted from the various tales that come after geomagnetic storms, and are later strengthened through particle exchanges.
However, when viewed through satellites that orbit the Van Allen belts, Dr. Baker and his team began to notice an odd occurrence happening at the inside corner of both belts. They discovered a kind of invisible force field that was aiding in blocking energy electrons that were coming toward the planet from outer space. The shield was preventing radiation electrons from coming in contact with the Earth’s atmosphere.
Dr. Baker and his group first assumed that the force field must have been some sort of magnetic obstacle that was performing as a shield. However, after much examination, they realized they were mistaken. They also scrutinized radio waves that had been produced by various different human sources. The scientists thought that possibly such transmissions were producing electron sprinkling layers which created borderlines but this hypothesis was found not to be suitable with any of their observations either.
Dr. Baker explained how nature abhors any type of strong gradients and tries to figure out ways to level them out. Because of that, it could be expected that some of the electrons would move outward and others go inward. Such particles should not be able to combine and make such sharp, tenacious boundaries at that present space location.
The astronomers started looking at a frigid cloud of electrically charged gas that surrounded the planet. It is located around an altitude of 600 miles above the Earth. This cloud is called the plasmasphere and extends upward for thousands of miles into the Van Allen Belts. Dr. Baker thought that the cloud just might have an intense reaction with the high energy particles. If so, that might have caused the particles to fail to drop near the planet’s atmosphere. High energy electrons would then be halted in flight at a tremendously harsh borderline of approximately 7,250 miles in altitude.
Dr. John Foster, who is a professor at MIT and also one of the study’s co-authors, explained that examining the force field phenomenon allowed his and Dr. Baker’s group to be able to say that the shield is unquestionably a new, hard, fast boundary that has been discovered even if no one, just yet, knows what it is, and how it attached itself inside the Van Allen belts.
There is going to be much more research needed and performed before the force field can be branded as to what it actually is and how it got there. The shield is also believed to be possibly helping keep cancer rates from soaring to all-time highs due to its protection of the space radiation among other things but just what is it and how long it has been there, is unknown as of the present time.
By Kimberly Ruble
Photo by NASA – Flickr License