Space

September 2, 2014

NASA probes studying Earth’s radiation belts celebrate two year anniversary

This image was created using data from the Relativistic Electron-Proton Telescopes on NASA’s twin Van Allen Probes. It shows the emergence of a new third transient radiation belt. The new belt is seen as the middle orange and red arc of the three seen on each side of the Earth.

Twin Van Allen Probes celebrated Aug. 30 two years of studying the sunís influence on our planet and near-Earth space. The probes, shortly after launch in August 2012, discovered a third radiation belt around Earth when only two had previously been detected.

The radiation belts are layers of energetic charged particles held in place by the magnetic field surrounding our planet. The new third belt occurred only occasionally but persisted for as long as a month. This revealed to scientists the dynamic and variable nature of the radiation belts and provided new insight into how they respond to solar activity.

“The primary science objective of the Van Allen Probes is to provide understanding of how particles in the radiation belts form and change in response to energy input from the sun,” said Mona Kessel, the missionís program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The discoveries and understanding gained have far exceeded expectations.”

The probes, each weighing just less than 1,500 pounds, were specifically designed to withstand and study the harsh radiation belt region around Earth. The belts are critical regions that have a connection to Earthís atmosphere and space-based technologies. The belts are affected by solar storms and space weather events and as a result, can swell dramatically. When this occurs, they can pose dangers to communications and GPS satellites, as well as humans in low-Earth orbit.

Formerly known as the Radiation Belt Storm Probes, the mission was renamed Van Allen Probes in November 2012 in honor of Dr. James Van Allen, who discovered the two radiation belts in 1958.

The twin spacecraft have also revealed how particles in the heart of the belts can be accelerated to nearly the speed of light; proven that electrons in the belts are undergoing acceleration from very low frequency plasma waves; and shown persistent stripe-like structures are a common feature of the inner belt, and are caused by Earthís rotation, a mechanism previously thought to be incapable of such an effect.

The Van Allen Probes mission has given us the means to validate theories about plasma physics and the acceleration processes going on inside the belts, said Barry Mauk, Van Allen Probes project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. They also have shown us new structures and features in this region of space, the existence of which we had never suspected. It has been a very illuminating two years, and we look forward to many more with these remarkable spacecraft.

The Van Allen Probes are the second mission in NASA’s Living With a Star (LWS) Program to explore aspects of the connected sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. LWS is managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. APL built the spacecraft and manages the mission for the agencyís Science Mission Directorate in Washington.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Navy photograph

NAWCWD manned for unmanned systems

Navy photograph A rail launch is performed during Integrator unmanned aerial vehicle testing at Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division China Lake, Calif. Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division scientists, engineers, techn...
 
 
NASA photograph by Ken Ulbrich

NASA employees go ‘above and beyond’

Courtesy photograph NASA Chief Scientist Albion Bowers, Christopher Miller and Nelson Brown receive the Exception Engineering Achievement Medal at Armstrong Research Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The prestigious award ...
 
 
Photograph by Tom Reynolds

Engineers, test pilots enjoy Mojave tradition

Photograph by Tom Reynolds Engineer and pilot students who recently graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School from Patuxent River, Md., and the USAF Test Pilot school at Edwards AFB kept with a 17 year old tradition, enjo...
 

 
nasa-global-hawk

Global Hawk 872 return marks 100th NASA flight

  NASA Global Hawk No. 872 is pictured on the ramp after landing at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Va., at sunrise following its 10th and final science flight Sept. 28–29 in the agency’s 2014 Hurricane and S...
 
 

Northrop Grumman hand held precision targeting device completes successful developmental test

A new hand held targeting system developed by Northrop Grumman that will enable soldiers to engage targets with precision munitions while providing digital connectivity to related military units has successfully completed developmental testing at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The evaluation of the company’s Hand Held Precision Targeting Device, or HHPTD, was conducted...
 
 
Photograph by Linda KC Reynolds

Educating future workers

Photograph by Linda KC Reynolds Antelope Valley College physics professor Christos Valiotis and assistant headmaster at the Palmdale Aerospace Academy, Matthew Winheim, speak at the Antelope Valley Board of Trade Luncheon. The ...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>