NASA probe glimpses supercharged radiation belts
A Van Allen spacecraft was in the right place at the right time to capture the effects of a shockwave crashing into Earth's magnetic field.
On 17 March 2015 the sun let fly a massive blast of matter, generating a shockwave which hit the Earth’s magnetic field, creating one of Earth’s strongest geomagnetic storms of the decade.
Luckily one of NASA’s Van Allen probes happened to be in the perfect position to offer unprecedented access to this intriguing phenomenon.
The probes were launched in 2012 to better understand space weather and in particular, the harsh environment that exists in the immense, powerful Van Allen belts of radiation that sit in concentric circles around Earth – important because radiation and energy in the Van Allen belts can harm satellites and astronauts.
Geomagnetic storms occur when Earth’s magnetic field is suddenly, temporarily disturbed. These events can, in turn, affect the radiation belts surrounding the planet.
The probe's observations were published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
Check out the video below to learn more about geomagnetic storms, the Van Allen radiation belts and NASA’s probes: