Number 130 (Story #1), May 27, 1993 by Phillip F. Schewe and Ben Stein|
A NEW RADIATION BELT AROUND THE EARTH has been discovered by the Solar Anomalous and Magnetospheric Particle Explorer (SAMPEX) satellite. The new belt, which consists mostly of ionized nitrogen, neon, and oxygen, is located within the inner Van Allen radiation belt (which itself consists mostly of protons). NASA and Caltech scientists, speaking at this week's meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Baltimore, said that they believed the relatively heavy ions had originated as neutral atoms in the interstellar medium and that the ions had penetrated far into the solar system before being ionized by solar ultraviolet radiation. The ions later make their way into the Earth's magnetic field, where they form a belt structure. The ions sometimes come down to Earth but are replaced by others.