Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Electromagnetic waves linked to particle fallout in Earth's atmosphere, new study finds

05.01.2015

In a new study that sheds light on space weather's impact on Earth, Dartmouth researchers and their colleagues show for the first time that plasma waves buffeting the planet's radiation belts are responsible for scattering charged particles into the atmosphere.

The study is the most detailed analysis so far of the link between these waves and the fallout of electrons from the planet's radiation belts. The belts are impacted by fluctuations in "space weather" caused by solar activity that can disrupt GPS satellites, communication systems, power grids and manned space exploration.


Dartmouth researchers and their BARREL (Balloon Array for Radiation belt Relativistic Electron Losses) colleagues launch instrument-laden balloons at lower altitudes above Antarctica to assess the fallout of electrons from the Earth's radiation belts.

Credit: Dartmouth College

The results appear in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. A PDF is available on request.

The Dartmouth space physicists are part of a NASA-sponsored team that studies the Van Allen radiation belts, which are donut-shaped belts of charged particles held in place by the Earth's magnetosphere, the magnetic field surrounding our planet. In a quest to better predict space weather, the Dartmouth researchers study the radiation belts from above and below in complementary approaches - through satellites (the twin NASA Van Allen Probes) high over the Earth and through dozens of instrument-laden balloons (BARREL, or Balloon Array for Radiation belt Relativistic Electron Losses) at lower altitudes to assess the particles that rain down.

The Van Allen Probes measure particle, electric and magnetic fields, or basically everything in the radiation belt environment, including the electrons, which descend following the Earth's magnetic field lines that converge at the poles. This is why the balloons are launched from Antarctica, where some of the best observations can be made. As the falling electrons collide with the atmosphere, they produce X-rays and that is what the balloon instruments are actually recording.

"We are measuring those atmospheric losses and trying to understand how the particles are getting kicked into the atmosphere," says co-author Robyn Millan, an associate professor in Dartmouth's Department of Physics and Astronomy and the principal investigator of BARREL. "Our main focus has been really on the processes that are occurring out in space. Particles in the Van Allen belts never reach the ground, so they don't constitute a health threat. Even the X-rays get absorbed, which is why we have to go to balloon altitudes to see them."

In their new study, the BARREL researchers' major objective was to obtain simultaneous measurements of the scattered particles and of ionoized gas called plasma out in space near the Earth's equator. They were particularly interested in simultaneous measurements of a particular kind of plasma wave called electromagnetic ion cyclotron waves and whether these waves were responsible for scattering the particles, which has been an open question for years.

The researchers obtained measurements in Antarctica in 2013 when the balloons and both the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) and Van Allen Probe satellites were near the same magnetic field line. They put the satellite data into their model that tests the wave-particle interaction theory, and the results suggest the wave scattering was the cause of the particle fallout. "This is the first real quantitative test of the theory," Millan says.

###

The study's first author is Zan Li, a PhD student in Department of Physics and Astronomy at Dartmouth College. Co-authors included scientists from Dartmouth, the University of California at Santa Cruz, Los Alamos National Laboratory, University of Colorado at Boulder, Augsburg College, Southwest Research Institute, Aerospace Corp. and University of New Hampshire.

Dartmouth Associate Professor Robyn Millan is available to comment at Robyn.M.Millan@Dartmouth.edu

Broadcast studios: Dartmouth has TV and radio studios available for interviews. For more information, visit: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~opa/radio-tv-studios/

John Cramer | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.dartmouth.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht New research calculates capacity of North American forests to sequester carbon
16.07.2018 | University of California - Santa Cruz

nachricht Scientists discover Earth's youngest banded iron formation in western China
12.07.2018 | University of Alberta

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Subaru Telescope helps pinpoint origin of ultra-high energy neutrino

16.07.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Barium ruthenate: A high-yield, easy-to-handle perovskite catalyst for the oxidation of sulfides

16.07.2018 | Life Sciences

New research calculates capacity of North American forests to sequester carbon

16.07.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>