Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How did a third radiation belt appear in the Earth's upper atmosphere?

Date:
June 20, 2013
Source:
University of California - Los Angeles
Summary:
How did a third radiation belt appear in the Earth's upper atmosphere, and then almost completely disappear?

NASA's Van Allen probes.
Credit: JHU/APL

Since the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts in in 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 Earth between the inner and outer rings in September 2012 and then almost completely disappeared.

How did this temporary radiation belt appear and dissipate?

In new research, the radiation belt group in the UCLA Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences explains the development of this third belt and its decay over a period of slightly more than four weeks. The research is available in the online edition of the journal Geophysical Research Letters and will be published in an upcoming print edition.

By performing a "quantitative treatment of the scattering of relativistic electrons by electromagnetic whistler-mode waves inside the dense plasmasphere," the investigators were able to account for the "distinctively slow decay of the injected relativistic electron flux" and demonstrate why this unusual third radiation belt is observed only at energies above 2 mega-electron-volts.

Understanding the processes that control the formation and ultimate loss of such relativistic electrons is a primary science objective of the NASA Van Allen Probe Mission and has important practical applications, because the enormous amounts of radiation the Van Allen belts generate can pose a significant hazard to satellites and spacecraft, as well to astronauts performing activities outside a spacecraft.

The current research was funded by the NASA, which launched the twin Van Allen probes in the summer of 2012.

The lead author of the research is Richard Thorne, a UCLA professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences, who was a co-author of the Feb. 28 research paper in Science. Co-authors of the new research include Wen Li, a graduate student who works in Thorne's laboratory; Binbin Ni, a postdoctoral scholar who works in Thorne's laboratory; Jacob Bortnik, a researcher with the UCLA Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences; Daniel Baker, a professor at the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and lead author of the February Science paper; and Vassilis Angelopoulos, a UCLA professor of Earth and space sciences.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Los Angeles. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. R. M. Thorne, W. Li, B. Ni, Q. Ma, J. Bortnik, D. N. Baker, H. E. Spence, G. D. Reeves, M. G. Henderson, C. A. Kletzing, W. S. Kurth, G. B. Hospodarsky, D. Turner, V. Angelopoulos. Evolution and slow decay of an unusual narrow ring of relativistic electrons near L ~ 3.2 following the September 2012 magnetic storm. Geophysical Research Letters, 2013; DOI: 10.1002/grl.50627

Cite This Page:

University of California - Los Angeles. "How did a third radiation belt appear in the Earth's upper atmosphere?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 June 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130620162840.htm>.
University of California - Los Angeles. (2013, June 20). How did a third radiation belt appear in the Earth's upper atmosphere?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130620162840.htm
University of California - Los Angeles. "How did a third radiation belt appear in the Earth's upper atmosphere?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130620162840.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Baby Moon 'Peggy' Spotted In Saturn's Rings

New Baby Moon 'Peggy' Spotted In Saturn's Rings

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) A bump in the rings could be a half-mile-wide miniature moon. It was found by accident in Cassini probe images. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Americas Glimpse Total Lunar Eclipse

Americas Glimpse Total Lunar Eclipse

AFP (Apr. 15, 2014) A total lunar eclipse, the first since December 2011, took place early Tuesday morning with the Americas getting the best glimpse. Duration: 1:19 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse

NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse

AP (Apr. 15, 2014) Star gazers in parts of North and South America got a rare treat early Tuesday morning - a total eclipse of the moon. (April 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spacecrafts Could Use Urine As Fuel Source

Spacecrafts Could Use Urine As Fuel Source

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) New research says the urea from urine could be recycled for fuel. Urea is filtered out of wastewater when making drinking water. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins