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U.S. researchers, including a trio from Los Alamos National Laboratory, have witnessed the mysterious appearance of a relatively long-lived zone of high-energy electrons stored between Earth’s Van Allen radiation belts.
The findings, discovered by NASA’s Van Allen Probes (formerly known as the Radiation Belt Storm Probes), were outlined in Science Express and during a press conference at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Dan Baker of the University of Colorado, Boulder, Laboratory led the research for Atmospheric and Space Physics.
“Nature keeps on surprising us by producing long-lived harsh environments in space in regions not previously considered,” said Los Alamos plasma physicist Reiner Friedel of LANL’s Intelligence and Space Research Division. “This finding may impact the planning of future space missions.”
The Van Allen radiation belts — named in honor James Van Allen, who discovered them nearly 50 years ago — are a pair of donut shaped zones of charged particles that surround Earth and occupy the inner region of our planet’s Magnetosphere. The outer belt contains extremely high-energy electrons, while the inner belt is comprised of energetic protons and electrons.
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