Another radiation belt was discovered circling the earth. The Van Allen radiation belts (two of them) were discovered in 1958 and while they do not pose a direct threat to human life, they are important for scientists to study. On March 1, The Telegraph reported that a third ring appeared and circled the earth for about a few weeks and then dispersed.
"Astronomers hope to discover how often the third belt forms and learn more about the behaviour of all three belts, which can damage communications and GPS satellites and expose astronauts to extra doses of radiation," The Telegraph reported.
The radiation belt discovered last year is being studied by astronomers even though it is no longer circling the earth. Many scientists want to know why it formed and if another third belt will form in the future. There are also ongoing studies involving the Van Allen belts, which astronomers say could "impact basic science."
"We thought we knew the radiation belts, but we don’t. The advances in technology and detection made by NASA in this mission already have had an almost immediate impact on basic science," said Nicky Fox, Van Allen Probes deputy project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University (via The Telegraph).
A radiation belt has not been discovered since the discovery of the first two back in the 50's. This third belt is important because it suggests that more belts could form and perhaps there could be an immediate danger to human life in years to come.
© Effie Orfanides 2013