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 Massive impact crater from a kilometer-wide iron meteorite discovered in Greenland
15.11.2018 | Faculty of Science - University of Copenhagen

nachricht The unintended consequences of dams and reservoirs
14.11.2018 | Uppsala University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Purdue cancer identity technology makes it easier to find a tumor's 'address'

16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

Good preparation is half the digestion

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Microscope measures muscle weakness

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>