Scientists explain the formation of unusual ring of radiation in space
Since the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts in 1958, space scientists have believed these belts encircling the Earth consist of two doughnut-shaped rings of highly charged particles—an inner ring of high-energy electrons and energetic positive ions and an outer ring of high-energy electrons.
In February of this year, a team of scientists reported the surprising discovery of a previously unknown third radiation ring—a narrow one that briefly appeared between the inner and outer rings in September 2012 and persisted for a month.
In new research, UCLA space scientists have successfully modeled and explained the unprecedented behavior of this third ring, showing that the extremely energetic particles that made up this ring, known as ultra-relativistic electrons, are driven by very different physics than typically observed Van Allen radiation belt particles. The region the belts occupy—ranging from about 1,000 to 50,000 km above the Earth’s surface—is filled with electrons so energetic they move close to the speed of light...