Nav: Home

NASA mission surfs through waves in space to understand space weather

July 24, 2017

The space surrounding our planet is full of restless charged particles and roiling electric and magnetic fields, which create waves around Earth. One type of wave, plasmaspheric hiss, is particularly important for removing charged particles from the Van Allen radiation belts, a seething coil of particles encircling Earth, which can interfere with satellites and telecommunications. A new study published in Journal of Geophysical Research using data from NASA's Van Allen Probes spacecraft has discovered that hiss is more complex than previously understood.

The new study looked at a newly identified population of hiss waves at a lower frequency than usually studied. These low-frequency hiss waves are particularly good at cleaning out high-energy particles -- those that can cause damage to satellites -- from the radiation belts. The authors of the study noticed that low-frequency waves are actually a separate and unique population, tending to cluster in different regions around Earth compared to their high-frequency counterparts.

"You want to know the state of the Van Allen radiation belts so you know how long satellites will last, and part of that is understanding the state of the waves," said David Malaspina, lead author and researcher at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder, Colorado. "We found the low frequency hiss interacts more effectively with higher energy electrons and can knock those electrons out of the belts more efficiently."

In order to protect satellites, NASA wants to better understand this region of near-Earth space. The space environment surrounding Earth is filled with plasma -- clouds of charged particles -- whose movement is determined not only by gravity, but also by electromagnetics. Constantly changing electric and magnetic fields rolling through space interact with the particles, creating waves in the plasma (like hiss), which are integral to sculpting the near-Earth space environment.

To understand the ever-changing near-Earth particle ecosystem and make better space weather predictions, scientists create models of the plasma waves. Incorporating this new information will make for better simulations. Homayon Aryan, researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said, "Most current wave models do not include this low frequency population of hiss waves. This is definitely an improvement and will allow us to understand the region better and compare theoretical predictions with observations more effectively."

Hiss is aptly named: its typical frequencies are right in the middle of the audible range, and it sounds like static noise when picked up by radio receivers. No one knows with certainty how low-frequency hiss waves originate, but current theories suggest that they form when charged particles are injected into the region of cold near-Earth plasma known as the plasmasphere. NASA's Van Allen Probes spacecraft study hiss and other plasma waves as part of their work to understand the complex interactions of particles and electromagnetic fields in near-Earth space.
-end-


NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Related Magnetic Fields Articles:

Are gamma-ray bursts powered by a star's collapsing magnetic fields?
In its final moments of life, a distant massive star releases an intense burst of high-energy gamma radiation - a Gamma Ray Burst (GRB) - the brightest sources of energy in the universe, detectable to humans through powerful telescopes.
Not everything is ferromagnetic in high magnetic fields
High magnetic fields have a potential to modify the microscopic arrangement of magnetic moments because they overcome interactions existing in zero field.
Ultracold gases in time-dependent magnetic fields
Zk Noor Nabi from Zhejiang University, China and co-workers from the Indian Institute of Technology studied the phase transition between the Mott insulating (MI) and superfluid (SF) states of an ultracold gas in a time-dependent magnetic field.
Visualizing strong magnetic fields with neutrons
Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI have developed a new method with which strong magnetic fields can be precisely measured.
Scientists deepen understanding of magnetic fields surrounding Earth and other planets
Now, a team of scientists has completed research into waves that travel through the magnetosphere, deepening understanding of the region and its interaction with our own planet, and opening up new ways to study other planets across the galaxy.
Technique pulls interstellar magnetic fields within easy reach
A new, more accessible and much cheaper approach to surveying the topology and strength of interstellar magnetic fields -- which weave through space in our galaxy and beyond, representing one of the most potent forces in nature -- has been developed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
A bubbly new way to detect the magnetic fields of nanometer-scale particles
The method provides manufacturers with a practical way to measure and improve their control of the properties of magnetic nanoparticles for a host of medical and environmental applications.
Quantum sensing method measures minuscule magnetic fields
A new technique developed at MIT uses quantum sensors to enable precise measurements of magnetic fields in different directions.
The FASEB Journal: Magnetic fields enhance bone remodeling
Since the creation of 3D-printed (3DP) porous titanium scaffolds in 2016, the scientific community has been exploring ways to improve their ability to stimulate osteogenesis, or bone remodeling.
Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators
Magnetic field lines tangled like spaghetti in a bowl might be behind the most powerful particle accelerators in the universe.
More Magnetic Fields News and Magnetic Fields Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Clint Smith
The killing of George Floyd by a police officer has sparked massive protests nationwide. This hour, writer and scholar Clint Smith reflects on this moment, through conversation, letters, and poetry.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.