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Waspie_Dwarf

Solution to Radiation Belts Mystery

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New Observations from NASA's Van Allen Probes Offer Solution to Radiation Belts Mystery

In 1958, scientists discovered two gigantic belts of radiation around Earth that have provided tantalizing mysteries to researchers ever since. One unsolved mystery: What accelerates particles in the belts to almost the speed of light? The best answer is that some kind of electromagnetic wave coursing through the belts pushes the particles along, not unlike a wave in the ocean providing a ride for a surfer.

NASA's twin Van Allen Probes launched in August 2012 to help differentiate between the many waves that might be doing the work. Now, observations from the mission show in unprecedented resolution that more low frequency waves are present than generally accounted for, offering one possibility for what's speeding the particles up so fast. The results were published in Nature Communications on Nov. 19, 2013.

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