Image by Andy Kale, University of Alberta
Surrounded by radiation belts, Earth is being protected by an invisible shield that stops high-speed “killer electrons,” scientists have found after taking a closer look at the Van Allen belt 7,200 miles above our planet.
“Somewhat like the shields created by force fields on Star Trek that were used to repel alien weapons, we are seeing an invisible shield blocking these electrons,” the study’s lead author, Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics explained. “It’s an extremely puzzling phenomenon.”
This previously unknown phenomenon has been discovered by probes aimed at examining the so-called Van Allen belts, zones of donut-shaped rings around our planet.
Until March 2013, scientists assumed there were only two belts, filled with high-energy electrons and protons, surrounding Earth.
However, a NASA-launched probe detected that there was a third belt in between the two.