'Space tsunami' causes the third Van Allen Belt

'Space tsunami' causes the third Van Allen Belt
An illustration to explain the dynamics of the ultra-relativistic third Van Allen radiation belt, by Andy Kale. Credit: Andy Kale

Earth's magnetosphere, the region of space dominated by Earth's magnetic field, protects our planet from the harsh battering of the solar wind. Like a protective shield, the magnetosphere absorbs and deflects plasma from the solar wind which originates from the Sun. When conditions are right, beautiful dancing auroral displays are generated. But when the solar wind is most violent, extreme space weather storms can create intense radiation in the Van Allen belts and drive electrical currents which can damage terrestrial electrical power grids. Earth could then be at risk for up to trillions of dollars of damage.

Announced today in Nature Physics, a new discovery led by researchers at the University of Alberta shows for the first time how the puzzling third Van Allen radiation belt is created by a "space tsunami." Intense so-called ultra-low frequency (ULF) plasma waves, which are excited on the scale of the whole magnetosphere, transport the outer part of the belt radiation harmlessly into interplanetary space and create the previously unexplained feature of the third belt.

"Remarkably, we observed huge plasma waves," says Ian Mann, physics professor at the University of Alberta, lead author on the study and former Canada Research Chair in Space Physics. "Rather like a space tsunami, they slosh the radiation belts around and very rapidly wash away the outer part of the belt, explaining the structure of the enigmatic third radiation belt."

The research also points to the importance of these waves for reducing the space radiation threat to satellites during other space storms as well. "Space radiation poses a threat to the operation of the satellite infrastructure upon which our twenty-first century technological society relies," adds Mann. "Understanding how such radiation is energized and lost is one of the biggest challenges for space research."

For the last 50 years, and since the accidental discovery of the Van Allen belts at the beginning of the space age, forecasting this space radiation has become essential to the operation of satellites and human exploration in space.

The Van Allen belts, named after their discoverer, are regions within the magnetosphere where high-energy protons and electrons are trapped by Earth's magnetic field. Known since 1958, these regions were historically classified into two inner and outer belts. However, in 2013, NASA's Van Allen Probes reported an unexplained third Van Allen belt that had not previously been observed. This third Van Allen belt lasted only a few weeks before it vanished, and its cause remained inexplicable.

Mann is co-investigator on the NASA Van Allen Probes mission. One of his team's main objectives is to model the process by which plasma waves in the magnetosphere control the dynamics of the intense relativistic particles in the Van Allen belts—with one of the goals of the Van Allen Probes mission being to develop sufficient understanding to reach the point of predictability. The appearance of the third Van Allen belt, one of the first major discoveries of the Van Allen Probes era, had continued to puzzle scientists with ever increasingly complex explanation models being developed. However, the explanation announced today shows that once the effects of these huge ULF waves are included, everything falls into place.

"We have discovered a very elegant explanation for the dynamics of the third belt," says Mann. "Our results show a remarkable simplicity in belt response once the dominant processes are accurately specified."

Many of the services we rely on today, such as GPS and satellite-based telecommunications, are affected by radiation within the Van Allen belts. Radiation in the form of high-energy electrons, often called "satellite killer" electrons because of their threat to satellites, is a high profile focus for the International Living with a Star (ILWS) Program and international cooperation between multiple international space agencies. Recent socio-economic studies of the impact of a severe space weather storm have estimated that the cost of the overall damage and follow-on impacts on space-based and terrestrial infrastructure could be as large as high as $2 trillion USD.

Politicians are also starting to give serious consideration to the risk from space weather. The White House recently announced the implementation of a Space Weather Action Plan highlighting the importance of space weather research like this recent discovery. The action plan seeks to mitigate the effects of extreme space weather by developing specific actions targeting mitigation and promoting international collaboration.

Mann, lead author of this new study, is the chairman of an international Space Weather Expert Group operated under the auspices of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS); the Expert Group has a three-year work plan and is charged with examining and developing strategies to address the space weather threat through international cooperation. As a nation living under the auroral zone, Canada faces a much larger potential threat from impacts than other countries.


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More information: Explaining the dynamics of the ultra-relativistic third Van Allen radiation belt, Nature Physics, DOI: 10.1038/nphys3799
Journal information: Nature Physics

Citation: 'Space tsunami' causes the third Van Allen Belt (2016, June 20) retrieved 22 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2016-06-space-tsunami-van-allen-belt.html
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Jun 20, 2016
For the last 50 years, and since the accidental discovery of the Van Allen belts at the beginning of the space age, forecasting this space radiation has become essential to the operation of satellites and human exploration in space.

LOL, "accidental discovery" of something that was predicted by Hannes Alfvèn. That's what happens when the space sciences becomes "the playground of theoreticians who have never seen a plasma in a laboratory. Many of them still believe in formulae which we know from laboratory experiments to be wrong. The astrophysical correspondence to the thermonuclear crisis has not yet come." HA

Alas, that comment was from 40 years ago and that crisis has yet to play out in astrophysics. Sadly, it doesn't stop them from making their fanciful guesses.

Jun 20, 2016
Ope, magnetic field in the title, that means the EU Acolyes will all jump up and down, grunting and displaying their sticks.

Wonder what observations they'll ignore in this article? Cause it is a lot easier to point to poorly done laboratory experiments in the 1970's then to study the in situ observations of today.

Then spout about how no one but them knows anything.

Jun 20, 2016
Wonder what observations they'll ignore in this article?

You are an unbelievable rube, to make such a comment after I pointed out that Alfvén was ignored for nearly two decades about the predictions of these phenomena and then "accidentally" discovering them. It should also be pointed out that Alfvén was ignored and scoffed at for his development of MHD for over a decade. And still now after experiments have shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that MHD is incorrect they still ignore the observations and Alfven's claims. BTW, even a poorly run experiments trumps your pitiful thought experiments that are the basis for GR.

Jun 20, 2016
And yet your cult can't publish a single scientific paper in a reputable journal. hmmmmmmmm....

Jun 20, 2016
And yet your cult can't publish a single scientific paper in a reputable journal. hmmmmmmmm....

So are afflicted by wilful ignorance or are you just a compulsive liar?

Jun 20, 2016
And yet your cult can't publish a single scientific paper in a reputable journal. hmmmmmmmm....
- matt s
All in good time...it will all be published through the proper channels and peer reviewed journals.
Have patience.

Jun 20, 2016
@CD
The plasma is an "electrolyte". The unknown 95% of the Universe is an electrolyte.

Jun 21, 2016
Our society is poorer for the young refusing to read books over forty years old, and school systems are complicit in this when they refuse to teach real unabused history. I was shocked when my grandson told me that no history pre-WW2 had been taught in any of his classes. Furthermore, the history that he DID get was all basically propaganda. PC has ruined our educational establishment and done it on a global scale as each society's PC degrades that nation's teachings of their next generation. Just like 'gun control', educational systems embody paranoia of our young in a deleterious way.

Jun 21, 2016
Breaking News: Otto discovers new word!
- FSC
Sshhhh - YOU are one of the first to read it. Now, can you tell us what you DO know wrt to the REST of my revelation that is for CD's eyes only? I can barely stand the suspense.

Jun 21, 2016
Our society is poorer for the young refusing to read books over forty years old, and school systems are complicit in this when they refuse to teach real unabused history. I was shocked when my grandson told me that no history pre-WW2 had been taught in any of his classes. Furthermore, the history that he DID get was all basically propaganda. PC has ruined our educational establishment and done it on a global scale as each society's PC degrades that nation's teachings of their next generation. Just like 'gun control', educational systems embody paranoia of our young in a deleterious way.
- Osiris1
There was and is, a concerted effort to dumb down the world population b/c the masses are seen by the Elites as no better than SLAVES, particularly those who are willing to work to earn a living. 8 BILLION souls in the world, and increasing, is seen by the Elites as threatening, which necessitates an enforced DECREASE in populations by any means necessary.
(cont'd)

Jun 21, 2016
(cont'd)
Teaching future slaves about the glorious (and inglorious) past of human history is regarded as a waste of time and money when these new citizens will most likely wind up working for a fast-food chain. Only the truly gifted who have been identified by PC-taught instructors MAY have a chance at a bright future, although they too, will have to toe the line and not transgress against the PC that is now conferred on all Americans & Europeans. Laws are becoming more stringent daily to prevent humans expressing their Right of Free Speech and other Civil and Human Rights.
American Liberal/Socialists began this trend first, followed by European leaders.
Most normal people want to have children and grandkids. This is unacceptable to the Eltes and, indeed, too much of an increase can only result in the "rape" of the Earth and the well-being of Elitists in government.
Thus, Planned Parenthood aborted and live-birth killings of innocent babies...terrorism and wars and diseases.

Jun 21, 2016
(cont'd)
What can be done about the dumbing down of schoolchildren by their PC-taught instructors? Not very much now. Most parents who object to it are like a "voice in the wilderness". They can be heard one day and media reports their complaints - then it's all but forgotten.
I think that it has to run its course - which is why I believe in "home-schooling" by competent and knowledgeable parents who understand the truth of what was, and is, happening to children who attend government schools.

Jun 22, 2016
And yet your cult can't publish a single scientific paper in a reputable journal. hmmmmmmmm....
- matt s
All in good time...it will all be published through the proper channels and peer reviewed journals.
Have patience.


Really? By whom, might I ask? There is nobody qualified to write such a paper within the cult, that I know of. We've been hearing the same claim for a long time. Even back in the days when this discussion was happening on newsgroups, and various well qualified people were saying the same thing as is being said now to the likes of Thornhill and Scott: i.e. "you don't know what you're talking about - if you do, let's hear about it." That was 20 years ago. Why are we still waiting? Two decades of data is publicly available - when are the EU geniuses going to get around to actually using it?

Jun 22, 2016
JD obviously suffers from the same affliction of wilful ignorance and pathological lying as shown by his cock puppet matt.

Jun 22, 2016
Otto_Szucks:
- Osiris1
There was and is, a concerted...blah blah blah

How unexpected! OS used Osiris' delirious key mashing to spam the page with unrelated drivel, attempting to obscure the fact that he just got his ass handed to him on the real topic.

Jun 23, 2016
JD obviously suffers from the same affliction of wilful ignorance and pathological lying as shown by his cock puppet matt.


Which doesn't answer the question I posed; when, instead of infesting places like this, are one of the scientifically illiterate muppets of the EU actually going to do some science? And who is going to do it? And what are their qualifications? Never, no one & none would be the answers, I suggest.

Jun 23, 2016
after experiments have shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that MHD is incorrect
@cd
all ya gotta do is provide the experiments and validation proving this and you are a Nobel winning scientist... feel free to submit this to any peer reviewed journal. i suggest Science Magazine considering the implications

"So are [you] afflicted by wilful ignorance or are you just a compulsive liar?" [sic]
obviously suffers from the same affliction of wilful ignorance and pathological lying
you are the one making extraordinary claims without *any* evidence at all whatsoever
while also promoting a known blatantly false claim (means you lie and you know it)

and yall are the proven sock puppet creators

so, how is all that proof that you can demonstrate, with an experiment and evidence, that MHD is wrong?

if you could do this one small thing you would be the hero of the eu cult

all ya gotta do is get it published and validated, sparky

Jun 26, 2016
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