Scientists explain the formation of unusual ring of radiation in space

Van Allen radiation belts
Van Allen radiation belts. Credit: NASA

Since the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts in 1958, space scientists have believed these belts encircling the Earth consist 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.

In February of this year, a team of scientists reported the surprising discovery of a previously unknown third radiation ring—a narrow one that briefly appeared between the inner and outer rings in September 2012 and persisted for a month.

In new research, UCLA scientists have successfully modeled and explained the unprecedented behavior of this third ring, showing that the extremely that made up this ring, known as ultra-relativistic electrons, are driven by very different physics than typically observed Van Allen radiation belt particles. The region the belts occupy—ranging from about 1,000 to 50,000 kilometers above the Earth's surface—is filled with electrons so energetic they move close to the speed of light.

"In the past, scientists thought that all the electrons in the radiation belts around the Earth obeyed the same physics," said Yuri Shprits, a research geophysicist with the UCLA Department of Earth and Space Sciences. "We are finding now that radiation belts consist of different populations that are driven by very different ."

Shprits, who is also an associate professor at Russia's Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, a new university co-organized by MIT, led the study, which is published Sept. 22 in the journal Nature Physics.

The Van Allen belts can pose a severe danger to satellites and spacecraft, with hazards ranging from minor anomalies to the complete failure of critical satellites. A better understanding of the radiation in space is instrumental to protecting people and equipment, Shprits said.

By taking into consideration how the fastest particles in the radiation belts move, and how they behave differently from less energetic particles, researches have created simulations of the radiation belts that better match what is actually observed. Credit: Y. Shprits

Ultra-relativistic electrons—which made up the third ring and are present in both the outer and inner belts—are especially hazardous and can penetrate through the shielding of the most protected and most valuable satellites in space, noted Shprits and Adam Kellerman, a staff research associate in Shprits' group.

"Their velocity is very close to the speed of light, and the energy of their motion is several times larger than the energy contained in their mass when they are at rest," Kellerman said. "The distinction between the behavior of the ultra-relativistic electrons and those at lower energies was key to this study." Shprits and his team found that on Sept. 1, 2012, plasma waves produced by ions that do not typically affect energetic electrons "whipped out ultra-relativistic electrons in the outer belt almost down to the inner edge of the outer belt." Only a narrow ring of ultra-relativistic electrons survived this storm. This remnant formed the third ring.

After the storm, a cold bubble of plasma around the Earth expanded to protect the particles in the narrow ring from ion waves, allowing the ring to persist. Shprits' group also found that very low-frequency electromagnetic pulsations that were thought to be dominant in accelerating and losing radiation belt electrons did not influence the ultra-relativistic electrons.

The Van Allen radiation belts "can no longer be considered as one consistent mass of electrons. They behave according to their energies and react in various ways to the disturbances in space," said Shprits, who was honored by President Obama last July with a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

"Ultra-relativistic particles move very fast and cannot be at the right frequency with waves when they are close to the equatorial plane," said Ksenia Orlova, a UCLA postdoctoral scholar in Shprits' group who is funded by NASA's Jack Eddy Fellowship. "This is the main reason the acceleration and scattering into the atmosphere of ultra-relativistic electrons by these waves is less efficient."

"This study shows that completely different populations of particles exist in space that change on different timescales, are driven by different physics and show very different spatial structures," Shprits said.

The team performed simulations with a model of the Earth's radiation belts for the period from late August 2012 to early October 2012. The simulation, conducted using the physics of ultra-relativistic electrons and space weather conditions monitored by ground stations, matched the observations from NASA's Van Allen Probes mission extraordinarily well, confirming the team's theory about the new ring.

"We have a remarkable agreement between our model and observations, both encompassing a wide range of energies," said Dmitriy Subbotin, a former graduate student of Shprits and current UCLA staff research associate.

"I believe that, with this study, we have uncovered the tip of the iceberg," Shprits said. "We still need to fully understand how these are accelerated, where they originate and how the dynamics of the belts is different for different storms."

The Earth's radiation belts were discovered in 1958 by Explorer I, the first U.S. satellite that traveled to space.


Explore further

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

More information: Unusual stable trapping of the ultrarelativistic electrons in the Van Allen radiation belts, DOI: 10.1038/nphys2760
Journal information: Nature Physics

Citation: Scientists explain the formation of unusual ring of radiation in space (2013, September 22) retrieved 15 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2013-09-scientists-formation-unusual-space.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
0 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Sep 22, 2013
Ultra-relativistic electrons—which made up the third ring and are present in both the outer and inner belts—….. noted Shprits and Adam Kellerman, a staff research associate in Shprits' group.
"Their velocity is very close to the speed of light, and the energy of their motion is several times larger than the energy contained in their mass when they are at rest," Kellerman said. "The distinction between the behavior of the ultra-relativistic electrons and those at lower energies was key to this study."
"I believe that, with this study, we have uncovered the tip of the iceberg," Shprits said. "We still need to fully understand how these electrons are accelerated, where they originate and how the dynamics of the belts is different for different storms."

Maybe our limitation was due to the ignorance for explaining how the fast moving electron got its energy (increasing mass – according to Einstein special relativity), understanding the working mechanism could help the research….
http://www.vacuum...22〈=en

Sep 23, 2013
I think this could be the work of Satan - it sounds like blasphemy.

Sep 23, 2013

Maybe our limitation was due to the ignorance for explaining how the fast moving electron got its energy (increasing mass – according to Einstein special relativity), understanding the working mechanism could help the research


In AWT the working mechanism would not help the research, because the little insects at the surface area of foamy bubbles don't give a fork about vacuum cleaners.

Sep 23, 2013
Science needs to progress to next dimensional nature of reality Index
Three mode spread function is an attribute to nature -outlined in my research papers.
Earth life support has special characteristics as part of Science in philosophical studies

Sep 23, 2013
Although more information would be needed

You know - there's a way to remedy that: JFGI

there is much science that is being done that does not reach the general audience

And you base this statement on...what exactly?
Sure there is classified research (e.g. military). But most other research is open to anyone.

Journals may be costly but there is no other barrier that prevents you from buying them - or even attending scientific conferences - as an interested layman. If you're really interested and have no money you can always email the researchers directly and they will almost certainly provide you with a pdf-copy of their article for free (if you ask nicely). I've done this quite a number of times and never gotten rejected.

Sep 23, 2013
It's a pity that these staff people that plague the net do not have the training to address the issues

What 'staff' and what 'issues' are you talking about?

The article is important, the issues it raises are important,

I agree. But you should be aware (if you have ever read a scientific paper) that a "speculation section" isn't part of a paper. You get abstract, state-of-the art/background (space permitting), methods, results, and (again space permitting) discussion and outlook.
But I'm really wasting my time here...having commented in the first place

Agreed.

Sep 23, 2013
What occurs in a spontaneous way when one reads the article is: the loss of integrity of the planet and the existence of the planet at multiple dimensions, which would explain the toroidal dynamics and the respective laws of structure, unknown, of course, by us, humans, probably other species more ontologically connected with the substance of the planet may intuit.


Naa, not so much. "What occurs in a spontaneous way when SOMEone reads the article is:" a convenient place to practice their gobbledygook.

What occurs in a spontaneous way when one reads the article is: the loss of integrity of the planet and the existence of the planet at multiple dimensions, which would explain the toroidal dynamics and the respective laws of structure, unknown, of course, by us, humans, probably other species more ontologically connected with the substance of the planet may intuit.


To be sure ya tie that gem to the topic of the article? (This ought to be good.)


Sep 23, 2013

Nothing like playing with nicks and others' comments to divert things, staff


Read the article, food for thought, then, read the comments around the article, and found comments around a, wait for it: commentator. Which really explains those puzzling ultra-relativistic particles.
This ain't staff, it's sparticles: there's the antialias_physorg and its partner Q-Star which gave us inside look at how one does science, from the nonscience perspective:

- Rule 1: no gobbledygook.
- Rule 2: no speculation, conjecture or all that stuff (also named gobbledygook).

You get abstract, state of the art which should surmise what we know so far, methods that you apply to something, what is it? Results that come from something which tests something, what is it? Discussion, of something about something, what is it? Outlook (for others to e-mail you, most probably). Anything missing? Oh right just that wee thing: your theory, your contributions.

Sep 23, 2013
What scared Laurel and Hardy bloodhounds (antialias_physorg and Q-Star) here, that are trying to move you (mariaodete) away from the article near the "speed of light" limit of their intellect?

IMHO: you state that some science is not only being kept from the public eye, no, it's being also kept from science makers eye. Remind me anyone, what does JASON stand for?

Not to speak of multiple dimensions and multiverse all that is very complicated for the eternal life peddlers out there.

Sep 23, 2013
Gobblygook indeed.

Sep 24, 2013
there's the antialias_physorg and its partner Q-Star which gave us inside look at how one does science, from the nonscience perspective:

Bzzt. Wrong. I have "been and done" when it comes to science. As has (or still is), I believe, QStar.

So my answer on how science is done may not be to your liking - but that just means that you believe science is something which it isn't in reality.


Sep 24, 2013
So here's to clear up a few notions:
You get abstract, state of the art which should surmise what we know so far, methods that you apply to something, what is it? Results that come from something which tests something, what is it? Discussion, of something about something, what is it? Outlook (for others to e-mail you, most probably). Anything missing?

- Abstract: Short summary of the achievement of the paper (usually one paragraph. Mostly limited in wordcount by the Journal in question)
- Stat of the art. This is to show that the researcher is up-to-date on what is happening in the field and isn't duplicating earlier effort by others. It also serves as a quick reference to papers that are relevant to the article at hand (e.g. because it builds on them, uses notations used elsewhere, etc. ). Sometimes this is merged with 'methods' (e.g. for conference papers which are limited to a few pages)

Sep 24, 2013
- Methods: This is the juicy part where you get to explain your contribution (Algorithms invented, masurement methods used, ...). The lead-in to this is the hypothesis that motivated the work. In very long papers you may see a separate 'Motivation' section which precedes the 'state-of-the-art' section.
- Results: Stuff you actually measured which lead to your conclusions about the expriment (statistically significiant/not significant, etc).. Sometimes 'Conclusions' is a separate section which will reiterate what has been achieved (in this case 'results' will contain just the measurements)
- Discussion and Outlook: It's rare that these sections are separate. Here you point out stuff that still needs to be done (possible shortcomings of the experiments that need to be looked into, future work you have planned)

(Note: 'Outlook' has nothing to do with the Microsoft program by that same name)

Sep 24, 2013
I followed similar routes during my lab work

Yes. It's a sensible way to divide up a paper. When you do journal papers (or conference papers) you always get a template from the editors from which to work. So if you read through the articles in a journal you'll notice they're all identically structured, have identical fonts, margins, etc.
Formatting work is NOT done by the journal/editor, BTW. They just tell you how to write it and won't accept it if you make a mistake on the format. They just copy and paste your article as is, once it has passed peer review. No checks - not even spelling.

Sep 24, 2013
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Sep 24, 2013
How did they miss this on the way to the moon?
I guess they tunneled right through the spacecraft missing the astronauts and sensors.

Sep 25, 2013
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more