Research

NASA probes spot man-made barrier around Earth

NASA probes spot man-made barrier around Earth

For instance, when the Argus tests were conducted, they were at higher altitudes than previous nuclear tests, pushing harmful particles much further into space. They blew up these weapons anywhere from 16 miles above Earth to 250, well into space. NASA's Van Allen Probes, which were launched in 2012 have tracked down a circle of "bubbles", around the Earth, which scientists have dubbed as "Manmade Space Weather". The charged particles can also threaten airlines by disturbing the Earth's magnetic field. These interactions can sometimes yield a protective barrier, blocking incoming high energy particles. The Teak test, which took place on August 1, 1958, was notable for the artificial aurora that resulted. The tests, and other human-induced space weather, are the focus of a comprehensive new study published in Space Science Reviews. The energetic particles released by the test likely followed Earth's magnetic field lines to the Polynesian island nation, inducing the aurora.

The barrier has been detected by NASA's Van Allen Probes, robotic spacecraft tasked with surveying Earth's Van Allen radiation belts.

So far, it was believed that humans have a capability of changing only the Earth's landscape, but with the new revaltion, it looks like we can shape up the near-space environment too. Geomagnetic storms were observed from Sweden to Arizona post the test. Scientists were using the Van Allen Probes to study the impact of man-made "space weather" when they found the VLF bubbles.

The probes noticed an interesting coincidence? the outward extent of the VLF bubble corresponds nearly exactly to the inner edge of the Van Allen radiation belts, a layer of charged particles held in place by Earth's magnetic fields.

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This lower limit is said to be the "impenetrable barrier" - but, without the presence of the VLF transmissions, scientists suspect the boundary would sit much closer to earth.

The particles remained trapped in these regions for weeks and, in one case, years, affecting electronic systems aboard high-flying satellites.

"The tests were a human-generated and extreme example of some of the space weather effects frequently caused by the sun", study's co-author Phil Erickson, an assistant director at MIT's Haystack Observatory, told NASA. These particles, natural and artificial, can affect electronics on high-flying satellites - in fact some failed as a result of the tests.

Not surprisingly, the erstwhile Soviet Union and the USA caused most of man-made space weather disturbance between 1958 and 1962 while conducting high-altitude tests.


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