Charged particles will normally accumulate in the magnetosphere around the earth and participate in the process of producing the earth’s auroras. A new study by the UCLA team points out that a type of electromagnetic wave in the radiation belt around the earth can trigger a larger “electron rain”, which may become an invisible way to damage satellites or human safety in future space travel if not careful.
The magnetosphere around Earth is full of electrons or other charged particles, known as the Van Allen radiation belt, in which electrons travel in a Slinky-like spring, bouncing back and forth between the north and south poles, when the solar wind or the sun Storms can blow these particles into Earth’s atmosphere and cause auroras.
Under certain conditions, whistler waves are generated in the radiation belt to excite plasma electrons and accelerate them. Recently, a UCLA team combined data from the ELFIN satellite and NASA THEMIS probe to find that another form is larger. The new mechanism for the range “electron rain” comes from whistling waves, which accelerate electrons and fall out of the Van Allen radiation belt. Compared to normal electron rain, the electron rain accelerated by whistling waves moves. Faster and with greater reach.
The researcher Vassilis Angelopolous explained that the Van Allen radiation belts can be imagined as “space reservoirs” filled with electrons. When the reservoir is full, the electrons will descend in a spiral manner to prevent overflow; but when the reservoir rushes a big wave, the shaking electrons will overflow. “Electron rain” forms at the edges.
The team further showed that during the Earth’s magnetic storm, this type of radiation will significantly intensify the impact on the earth, causing hidden harm to satellites, probes, and astronauts. However, the current space weather prediction model has not yet included the electron rain caused by whistling waves. Missing out reduces prediction accuracy.
The new paper was published in the journal Nature Communications.