Third Radiation Belt Discovered With UNH-led Instrument Suite


On Aug. 31, 2012, a giant prominence on the sun erupted. Credit: NASA/SDO/AIA/Goddard Space Flight Center

On Aug. 31, 2012, a giant prominence on the sun erupted. Credit: NASA/SDO/AIA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Although scientists involved in NASA’s Van Allen Probes mission were confident they would eventually be able to rewrite the textbook on Earth’s twin radiation belts, getting material for the new edition just two days after launch was surprising, momentous, and gratifying.

The Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission, subsequently renamed in honor of the belts’ discoverer, astrophysicist James Van Allen, was launched in the pre-dawn hours of August 30, 2012. Shortly thereafter, and well ahead of schedule in normal operational protocol, mission scientists turned on the Relativistic Electron-Proton Telescope (REPT) to gather data in parallel with another, aging satellite that was poised to fall from orbit and reenter Earth’s atmosphere. It was a fortuitous decision.

The telescope, which is part of the Energetic Particle, Composition, and Thermal Plasma (ECT) instrument suite led by the Space Science Center at the University of New Hampshire, immediately sent back data that at first confounded scientists but then provided a eureka moment: seen for the first time was a transient third radiation belt of high-energy particles formed in the wake of a powerful solar event that happened shortly after REPT began taking data.

Full Story: http://www.eos.sr.unh.edu/news/indiv_news.shtml?NEWS_ID=1373
Also: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2013/feb/HQ_13-065_Van_Allen_Probes_Belts.html
Also: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/rbsp/news/third-belt.html

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