Giant particle accelerator in sky, new study finds

ISLAMABAD        -   The Earth’s magnetic field is trapping high energy particles. When the first satellites were launched into space, scientists led by James Van Allen unexpectedly discovered the high energy particle radiation regions, which were later named after its discoverer Van Allen Radiation Belts. Visualized, these look like two donut-shaped regions encompassing our planet. Now, a new study led by researchers from GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences shows that electrons in the radiation belts can be accelerated to very high speeds locally. 

The study shows that magnetosphere works as a very efficient particle accelerator speeding up electrons to so-called ultra-relativistic energies. The study conducted by Hayley Allison, a postdoctoral scholar at GFZ Potsdam, and Yuri Shprits from GFZ and Professor at the University of Potsdam, is published in Nature Communications. To better understand the origin of the Van Allen Belts, in 2012 NASA launched the Van Allen Probes twin spacecraft to traverse this most harsh environment and conduct detailed measurements in this hazardous region.

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