Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Stunning animation shows the Earth's 'supercharged' Van Allen belt as it is battered by the biggest solar storm for a decade

  • On March 17, 2015 giant coronal mass ejection from the sun triggering the greatest geomagnetic storm of the preceding decade
  • Nasa was lucky enough to have a satellite in operation in the area 
  • Researchers found Van Allen belt became 'supercharged' for days after
It is the moment the Earth came under attack from the sun - and it was captured in stunning detail.
Nasa has revealed an amazing animation showing the Van Allen belts becoming 'supercharged' as a giant solar storm hits.
On March 17, 2015, an interplanetary shock – a shockwave created by the driving force of a coronal mass ejection, or CME, from the sun – struck Earth's magnetic field, called the magnetosphere, triggering the greatest geomagnetic storm of the preceding decade. 

What happens Artist concept of accelerated electrons circulating in Earth's Van Allen radiation belts. (Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center; Tom Bridgman, animator)


The Van Allen belts, named after their discoverer, are regions within the magnetosphere where high-energy protons and electrons are trapped by Earth's magnetic field. 
Known since 1958, these regions were historically classified into two inner and outer belts. 
However, in 2013, Nasa's Van Allen Probes reported an unexplained third Van Allen belt that had not previously been observed. 
This third Van Allen belt lasted only a few weeks before it vanished, and its cause remained inexplicable.
Nasa's Van Allen Probes were there to watch the effects on the radiation belts.
One of the most common forms of space weather, a geomagnetic storm describes any event in which the magnetosphere is suddenly, temporarily disturbed. 
Such an event can also lead to change in the radiation belts surrounding Earth, but researchers have seldom been able to observe what happens. 
On the day of the March 2015 geomagnetic storm, one of the Van Allen Probes was orbiting right through the belts, providing unprecedented high-resolution data from a rarely witnessed phenomenon.
The March 2015 storm was initiated by an interplanetary shock hurtling toward Earth – a giant shockwave in space set off by a CME, much like a tsunami is triggered by an earthquake. 
The spacecraft measured a sudden pulse of electrons energized to extreme speeds – nearly as fast as the speed of light – as the shock slammed the outer radiation belt.

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