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back to article Boffins explain bizarre here-one-month-gone-the-next 'third Van Allen belt'

UCLA scientists have gone some way to explaining the mysterious “third Van Allen” belt that turned up unexpectedly last August when NASA fired up its Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) to look at the radiation region that surrounds the Earth. Back in March, NASA said its work to calibrate the RBSPs' Relativistic Electron Proton …

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Unfulfilled Purpose

Scientists speculate too much. Although it may appear to be a separate entity, the 'third belt' isn't separate at all. What they are observing is the reproductive cycle of the smaller belt. The changed appearance and erratic behavior might lead them to believe the 'third belt' is a completely different object but that is not the case. The observed behaviors are normal, and although inconvenient to the larger belt, these symptoms, as noted, will pass.

Instead of probing the third belt during this period they should be increasing their focus on the larger belt and attempting to mollify the smaller belt. Perhaps pointing out how nice it looks and how interesting it is. Making a big scene out of the 'third belt' only introduces more chaos to an already unstable situation. The worst possible thing they can do would be to give the 'third belt' some sort of name. That will guarantee they will never be able to study either belt in a non-agitated state ever again.

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Re: Unfulfilled Purpose

I find your attitude utterly beltist and anti-proton.

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Meh

so here I am

In the comments, looking for an explanation that will make sense of this to me. And what do I get? Psychotherapy for radiation...amusing, but not really what I was looking for.

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Happy

Re: so here I am

Nobody really understands what's going on with the Van Allen belts. Even the scientists. That's why they study them. They'll get it all sorted eventually, but the belts are difficult and expensive to study. Until such a time they do get it figured, the psychotherapy is really the best option for all involved. It won't work well unless you continue the sessions and work through everything in a controlled environment with someone to guide you through everything you'll learn.

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Childcatcher

Re: so here I am

Nobody really understands what's going on with the Van Allen belts.

Yes and no. Looking into this a bit more, I found a statement that they "have a remarkable agreement between ... model and observations," they "have uncovered the tip of the iceberg," An interesting metaphor, to be sure, but really not offering much insight to the lay person. I am thus left unenlightened; it seems that the folks conducting the study can explain somewhat what is going on, just not to the public.

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Facepalm

Re: so here I am

"In the comments, looking for an explanation that will make sense of this to me. ..."

And you're looking for this on The Reg. eh?

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Re: tip of the iceberg

>An interesting metaphor

Nonsense. They are running the numbers of their model against global temperature patterns and crop reports to build a trading program for agricultural commodities, fertilizer manufacturers, and oil price and take over the world!!!!!!!!!!

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Holmes

Re: so here I am

>It won't work well unless you continue the sessions and work through everything in a controlled environment with someone to guide you through everything you'll learn.

Nice pitch, you seem to have been practicing or are you the patient?

I did laugh my ass off at the original.

He's no Freud, but with the pipe and shared penchant for blow it's the best we got >>

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Re: Unfulfilled Purpose

"Although it may appear to be a separate entity, the 'third belt' isn't separate at all."

How fascinating! So, you think it isn't a third belt at all, even though it is separate from the other two belts. In spite of scientists who specialize in the field believe and proclaim, based upon empirical evidence observed in and around the phenomenon.

Then, you decide how research should be exercised.

All without the benefit of such understanding or even the ability to control the purse strings on scientific studies and their budgets.

What I find truly fascinating is how little we still understand about magnetism, after centuries of studying it and knowing about magnetic field lines, the source of various magnetic fields or the chaotic systems such natural fields generate.

Something that one can only begin to understand by studying both the more stable state first two belt and the transitory third belt during such excitation states.

Otherwise, you get half of the picture and it'll be another three centuries before we actually fully understand magnetic fields in large systems, magnetic tangle systems and hopefully, eventually fully map and understand even solar magnetic field processes.

Because only studying stable state belts is really a lot like studying a magnet on a desktop. Not highly illuminating when one really needs to also understand processes involving highly energetic particles trapped in such belts.

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FAIL

Re: Wzrdly comment on «Unfulfilled Purpose»

Have you ever considered that Don Jefe might, as is his wont, have been waxing sarcastic ? Or perhaps wizards Wzrds don't do - or grasp - sarcasm ?...

Henri

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too dangerous

all this van allen belt stuff just makes it appear increasingly unlikely anyone could have got past them and survived. i'm sure it's possible and one day soon-ish humans will breach this boundary, but it just doesn't seem very likely we could have done it prior to now.

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Re: too dangerous

Well, 24 people have already flown through them and back during the Apollo program.

In addition, there is a way for the inner belts to be rid of the high-energy particles:

"High Voltage Orbiting Long Tether, or HiVOLT, is a concept proposed by Russian physicist V.V. Danilov and further refined by Robert P. Hoyt and Robert L. Forward for draining and removing the radiation fields of the Van Allen radiation belts that surround the Earth. A proposed configuration consists of a system of five 100 km long conducting tethers deployed from satellites, and charged to a large voltage. This would cause charged particles that encounter the tethers to have their pitch angle changed, thus over time dissolving the Van Allen belts. Hoyt and Forward's company, Tethers Unlimited, performed a preliminary analysis simulation, and produced a chart depicting a theoretical radiation flux reduction, to less than 1% of current levels within two months using the HiVOLT System."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: too dangerous

...after which the Vogons will finally be free to move in with demolition equipment.

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Re: HiVOLT

"But it was the humans who torched the sky."

I'm sure the system would work. But this is one instance where I'd like a good bit more study before we change anything. I have a gut feeling those belts do more to protect our environment than we know. I'd be more comfortable with a system that made a temporary hole that could close again after we were finished with it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: too dangerous

"Well, 24 people have already flown through them and back during the Apollo program."

Yes, on a trajectory carefully chosesn to minimise exposure to VAB radiation - it was quite a big deal apparently.

There is a very comprehensive - fit for the interested layman - analysis of the apollo missions wrt trajectory and the like. Fascinating reading, unfortunately I don't have a link for it.

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Boffin

«High Voltage Orbiting Long Tether,

or HiVOLT, is a concept proposed by Russian physicist V.V. Danilov and further refined by Robert P. Hoyt and Robert L. Forward for draining and removing the radiation fields of the Van Allen radiation belts that surround the Earth....»

What could ever go wrong with geo NEO engineering ?!!...

Henri

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Re: HiVOLT

"I'd be more comfortable with a system that made a temporary hole that could close again after we were finished with it."

I'm quite sure that as soon as you remove the wires or even just remove the electric charge from the wires the belts will start filling up again pretty quickly by trapping the solar wind particles.

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High energy - no, moderate

An electron has a rest mass of 0.5 MeV. So if v/c =0.9, gamma = 2 approx; so a total energy of about 1 Mev. Not high energy by cosmic ray standards.

So how fast are they really going?

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Re: High energy - no, moderate

No, not really a problem at all. I have no problem with electrons (even the younglings of Don Jefe). What I have problems with is the nasty particles with >80MeV. I am not looking forward to next year's work on new stuff for Jupiter - makes the Van Allen belts look like kindergarten.

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Alien

Hey, does anyone know if the artificial radiation belts from Operation Argus (when we "donated" three sounding rockets with nukes to the far upper atmosphere) and the Starfish tests are still detectable? Id imagine that the answer is no, but its still a curiosity and one that the Government does not like to discuss as its politically sensitive.

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Wikipedia Starfish Prime.

5 years is the longest lasting one according to the article which quotes a book (The Radiation Belt and Magnetosphere - an amalgamation of 2500 studies, so that could go either way).

A more interesting thought I had was during the wikipedia hole was could the X-37B missions be doing flybys of foreign satellites for nuclear weapons inspections? Though I suspect that it is more of a surveillance device than a snatch-a-sat.

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