Categories: AstronomyEarthNASA

Speedy Particles Whip At Nearly The Speed Of Light In Earth’s Radiation Belts

The radiation-heavy Van Allen Belts around Earth contain particles that can move at almost the speed of light across vast distances, new research reveals. The information came from an instrument flown aboard the Van Allen Probes twin NASA spacecraft, which launched in 2012.

According to scientists, the process that creates this is similar to what happens in the Large Hadron Collider and other particle accelerators. The magnetic field on the Earth accelerates electrons faster as these particles orbit the planet. While scientists had spotted this process happening at small scales before, the new paper has seen this across hundreds of thousands of kilometers or miles.

“With the Van Allen Probes, I like to think there’s no place for these particles to hide because each spacecraft is spinning and ‘glimpses’ the entire sky with its detector ‘eyes’, so we’re essentially getting a 360-degree view in terms of direction, position, energy, and time,” stated Harlan Spence, principal scientist for the Energetic Particle, Composition, and Thermal Plasma (ECT) instrument aboard the probes, and co-author on the research paper. He is also director of the University of New Hampshire Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space.

The research was led by University of Alberta physicist Ian Mann, and is available in Nature Communications. “People have considered that this acceleration process might be present but we haven’t been able to see it clearly until the Van Allen Probes,” Mann stated.

Source: University of New Hampshire

Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

Recent Posts

Don't Get Your Hopes Up for Finding Liquid Water on Mars

In the coming decades, NASA and China intend to send the first crewed missions to…

2 hours ago

Webb is an Amazing Supernova Hunter

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has just increased the number of known distant supernovae…

10 hours ago

Echoes of Flares from the Milky Way’s Supermassive Black Hole

The supermassive black hole at the heart of our Milky Way Galaxy is a quiet…

14 hours ago

Warp Drives Could Generate Gravitational Waves

Will future humans use warp drives to explore the cosmos? We're in no position to…

17 hours ago

An Astronaut Might Need Kidney Dialysis on the Way Home from Mars

Long term space exploration comes with many challenges. Not least is how much toilet paper…

21 hours ago

Moon Lander Detects Technosignatures Coming from Earth

The search for life has to be one of the most talked about questions in…

22 hours ago