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NASA discovers particle accelerator in Earth’s Van Allen Radiation Belts

Rick Docksai | Science Recorder | July 26, 2013

NASA discovers particle accelerator in Earth’s Van Allen Radiation Belts

NASA learns more about the Van Allen Radiation Belts.

How much damage can some roving electrons cause to a space satellite? Quite a lot, actually: Super-charged electrons running at high speeds through Earth’s radiation belt have actually been causing many satellites to meet untimely mission failures. And a recent study has identified the electrons’ power source within electromagnetic waves that encircle our planet.

The researchers, who published a paper on their findings this week in Science, relied on data collected by NASA’s two Van Allen space probes. NASA launched the Van Allen probes in August 2012 to discern the effects of the sun’s radiation on Earth and its surrounding space by studying the Van Allen belt, the series of massive rings of these charged electrons that encircle Earth.

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