Nasa probe finds bubble created by human activity enveloping Earth

James Marshall
May 20, 2017

Data now show that the inner extent of the Van Allen belts sits much farther away than it did in satellite observations from the 1960s.

Between 1958 and 1962, the USA and USSR ran high-altitude tests with exotic code names like Starfish, Argus and Teak.

The finding comes as part of a more comprehensive paper on human-caused space weather phenomena.

Several nuclear explosion tests during the Cold War are responsible for altering space weather, including the Earth's magnetic environment, according to a Nasa study that examined newly-declassified data. The sun conveys a huge number of high-energy particles, the sun based wind, which races out over the close planetary system before experiencing Earth and its magnetosphere, a defensive magnetic field encompassing the planet. Now scientists at NASA have discovered that we have also been shaping our near-space environments with radio signals.

One of NASA's powerful Earth-observing satellites has tracked down a massive "Bubble" contiguous to the Planet Earth, and scientists have named it as "Manmade Space Weather". This created a geomagnetic disturbance, which distorted Earth's magnetic field lines and induced an electric field on the surface.

Spacecrafts present high above the planet's surface, like NASA's Van Allen Probes, which assess ions and electrons present in the near-Earth environment, can also witness this VLF bubble.

In another plot twist, it seems that this bubble, which ends just at the inner edge of the Van Allen Belts, may actually provide Earth with an additional layer of protection against particle radiation coming from space, deflecting other types of harmful radiation.

As a result they concluded that it is inadvertently protecting us from natural high-energy particle radiation in space, which has to be good news, right? The tests gave researchers a rare chance to study the interactions of these charged particles with the Earth in a controlled way, which could help give insights into how electromagnetic storms may affect us in the future. The Teak test, which took place on August 1, 1958, was notable for the artificial aurora that resulted. These belts can shrink down or swell up enough to damage our satellites in orbit with radiation, and now they are much further from Earth than they were a few decades ago.

According to NASA, the test caused geomagnetic storms detected from Sweden all the way to Arizona, with two high-speed waves of particles traveling at 1,860 miles per second and nearly 500 miles per second, respectively.

Researchers are testing whether VLF radiation could be used to rid the upper atmosphere of excess radiation. A different explosion let them see how fast the particles traveled, in once case as fast as 1,860 miles per second.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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