Science & Technology

Van Allen Probes Reveal Man-Made Barrier Shrouding Earth

A newly printed research particulars the anthropogenic results on the house atmosphere, which began within the late nineteenth century and reached their peak within the Nineteen Sixties when high-altitude nuclear explosions had been carried out by the USA and the Soviet Union.

People have lengthy been shaping Earth’s panorama, however now scientists know we are able to form our near-space atmosphere as nicely. A sure sort of communications — very low frequency, or VLF, radio communications — have been discovered to work together with particles in house, affecting how and the place they transfer. At occasions, these interactions can create a barrier round Earth towards pure excessive vitality particle radiation in house. These outcomes, a part of a complete paper on human-induced house climate, had been recently published in Space Science Reviews.

“Numerous experiments and observations have discovered that, underneath the appropriate situations, radio communications indicators within the VLF frequency vary can in actual fact have an effect on the properties of the high-energy radiation atmosphere across the Earth,” mentioned Phil Erickson, assistant director on the MIT Haystack Observatory, Westford, Massachusetts.

VLF indicators are transmitted from floor stations at large powers to speak with submarines deep within the ocean. Whereas these waves are meant for communications under the floor, additionally they prolong out past our ambiance, shrouding Earth in a VLF bubble. This bubble is even seen by spacecraft excessive above Earth’s floor, equivalent to NASA’s Van Allen Probes, which research electrons and ions within the near-Earth atmosphere.

The probes have seen an fascinating coincidence — the outward extent of the VLF bubble corresponds nearly precisely to the inside fringe of the Van Allen radiation belts, a layer of charged particles held in place by Earth’s magnetic fields. Dan Baker, director of the College of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Area Physics in Boulder, coined this decrease restrict the “impenetrable barrier” and speculates that if there have been no human VLF transmissions, the boundary would seemingly stretch nearer to Earth. Certainly, comparisons of the trendy extent of the radiation belts from Van Allen Probe knowledge present the inside boundary to be a lot farther away than its recorded place in satellite tv for pc knowledge from the Nineteen Sixties, when VLF transmissions had been extra restricted.

With additional research, VLF transmissions could function a technique to take away extra radiation from the near-Earth atmosphere. Plans are already underway to check VLF transmissions within the higher ambiance to see if they may take away extra charged particles — which may seem during times of intense house climate, equivalent to when the solar erupts with big clouds of particles and vitality.

Publication: T. I. Gombosi, et al., “Anthropogenic Area Climate,” Area Science Evaluations, 2017; DOI: 10.1007/s11214-017-0357-5

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