(ORDO NEWS) — In 2017, NASA space probes discovered an artificial “barrier” surrounding the Earth.
Tests have confirmed that it does affect space weather far beyond our planet’s atmosphere.
Humanity is not only changing the Earth a lot, scientists propose to name a whole new geological era after us – our activities have also changed the cosmos.
But the good news is that unlike our influence on the planet itself, this huge bubble we created in space is actually working in our favor.
Back in 2012, NASA launched two space probes that worked in tandem with each other as they flew through the Van Allen belts at about 3,200 km / h.
Our planet is surrounded by two such radiation belts (and a temporary third) – the inner belt extends from 640 to 9600 km above the Earth’s surface, and the outer belt is approximately 13,500 to 58,000 km high.
In 2017, Van Allen’s probes discovered something strange by observing the activity of charged particles trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field – these dangerous solar discharges were being contained by some kind of low-frequency barrier.
When scientists investigated, they found that the barrier has been actively pushing the Van Allen belts away from Earth over the past several decades, and now the lower limits of radiation fluxes are actually farther from us than they were in the 1960s.
So what has changed?
A particular type of transmission, called very low frequency (VLF) radio communications, has become much more common now than it was in the 1960s, and the NASA team has confirmed that they can influence how and where certain particles move in space.
In other words, thanks to VLF, we have anthropogenic (or man-made) space weather.
“A number of experiments and observations have shown that under certain conditions, VLF radio signals can actually affect the properties of the high-energy radiation environment around the Earth,” said Phil Erickson of MIT’s Haystack Observatory in 2017.
Most of us have little to do with VLF signals in our day-to-day life, but they are the backbone of many engineering, scientific and military operations.
With frequencies between 3 and 30 kilohertz, they are too weak for transmitting audio, but they are ideal for transmitting encoded messages over long distances or deep under water.
One of the most common uses for VLF signals is to communicate with deep-sea submarines, but because their long wavelengths can be scattered around large obstacles such as mountain ranges, they are also used to transmit signals through difficult terrain.
VLF signals were never intended to be transmitted anywhere other than Earth, but they turned out to seep into the space surrounding our planet and linger long enough to form a giant protective bubble.
When the Van Allen probe compared the location of the VLF bubble to the boundaries of the Earth’s radiation belts, they found what initially looked like an interesting coincidence: “The outer size of the VLF bubble almost exactly matches the inner edge of the Van Allen radiation,” NASA said.
But once they realized that VLF signals could indeed influence the movement of charged particles in these radiation belts, it became clear that our unintended artificial barrier was gradually pushing them away.
Our VLF protective bubble is the best influence that we humans have had on the space surrounding our planet.
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