New Information on Van Allen Belts
Using NASA’s Van Allen Probes, researchers have recently found that the shape of the Van Allen Belts is very different that what scientists previously believed.
The Van Allen Belts consist of two doughnut-shaped electron swarms located about 600 miles from the Earth’s surface. These belts can shrink and grow in response to incoming radiation from the sun. It is important to understand the Van Allen Belts un order to protect our satellites from damaging radiation.
Geoff Reeves, from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the New Mexico Consortium is the lead author on the study published on Dec. 28, 2015, in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
Our previous understanding of the radiation belts was that there was a small inner belt, an empty slot region and a larger outer belt. This new analysis reveals that the shape can vary from a single, continuous belt with no slot region, to a larger inner belt with a smaller outer belt, to no inner belt at all.
New precise observations like this, from the Van Allen Probes will allow scientists to create a more accurate model of the radiation belts. To read more detail on this interesting research see the Space Daily article here.