Researchers have discovered and invisible shield at about 7,200 miles above the planet’s surface that protects it from “killer electrons” flying nearly to the speed of light. The newly discovered space shield protects Earth from radiation.
Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Colorado said the invisible “Star-Trek” space shield protects Earth from radiation and complete destruction caused by the “ultrarelativistic electrons” from the outer part of Van Allen radiation belt.
Director of CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and lead study author, Professor Daniel Baker said the radiation belt Van Allen is a surface of particles energetically charged at high altitudes by the magnetic field of the Earth. Ultrarelativistic electrons are particles that are circling our planet, or any other that has a magnetic field, at a speed very close to the speed of light.
“It’s almost like these electrons are running into a glass wall in space. Somewhat like the shields created by force fields on Star Trek that were used to repel alien weapons, we are seeing an invisible shield blocking these electrons. It’s an extremely puzzling phenomenon,”
Said Professor Daniel Baker.
Scientists gathered data from the Van Allen Probes, two NASA space crafts. The data found in the two space crafts showed the shield tweaks faster than it was thought until now, with particles undergoing rapid changes in time, energy and spatial distribution.
The team led by Professor Daniel Baker found a transient “storage ring”, third of its kind in the belt, between the outer and inner Van Allen belts. Depending on space weather, the third transient ring appears to appear and vanish.
“Nature abhors strong gradients and generally finds ways to smooth them out, so we would expect some of the relativistic electrons to move inward and some outward. It’s not obvious how the slow, gradual processes that should be involved in motion of these particles can conspire to create such a sharp, persistent boundary at this location in space,”
Professor Daniel Baker said.
The belts are named after a physicist at the University of Iowa, James Van Allen. James Van Allen discovered them in 1958 and is looked at as a founder of magnetospheric space research. Van Allen died at the age of 91 in 2006.
The new study will be published on November 27 in the Nature journal.