Scientists discover invisible shield blocking Earth from 'killer electrons'

A team led by professors and scientists from the University of Colorado at Boulder have discovered an invisible shield in space that lies within the Van Allen radiation belts and blocks earth from so-called 'killer electrons'.

According to NASA, 'killer electrons' are the devilish doppelgangers of Earth’s subatomic allies. When these electrons reach high speeds of more than 100,000 miles per second in space, they can be dangerous and have been known to destroy satellites and even cause issues for astronauts.

The invisible shield lying with Van Allen Radiation Belts is impenetrable said to be located at some 7,200 miles from earth. Van Allen Radiation Belts are two rings around earth containing potent electrons and protons trapped by the earth’s magnetic field.

This discovery was made using NASA’s Van Allen probes, which were launched to study the region in August of 2012.

Study's author Dan Baker, a space scientist at the University of Colorado in Boulder said, “This barrier for the ultra-fast electrons is a remarkable feature of the belts, We’re able to study it for the first time, because we never had such accurate measurements of these high-energy electrons before.”

The Van Allen belts were discovered by the Explorer 1 satellite, which was launched in 1958. Since then, the scientists have learned that the two belts can change size, or merge or give rise to a third belt.

Usually the inner belt stretches from 400 to 6,000 miles above the Earth’s surface and the outer belt stretches from 8,400 to 36,000 miles above the Earth’s surface.

They are separated by a gap of fairly empty space. But now, the scientists have tried to explain why there is a region between the belts with no electrons.

With the help of data from the Van Allen probes, it was revealed that the inner edge of the outer belts is actually is a sharp boundary that the fastest, highest energy electrons cannot penetrate under normal circumstances.

The results of the study were published in the November 27 issue of the journal Nature.

United States