News & AnalysisSpace Physics

The Savage Radiation of the Van Allen Belts Is Homegrown

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Science  26 Jul 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6144, pp. 331
DOI: 10.1126/science.341.6144.331

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The Van Allen radiation belts have been zapping unlucky satellites—and puzzling space physicists—ever since they were discovered 6 decades ago. Now, at last, researchers have figured out where the electrons that fill the Van Allen belts get their killer energy: They are being accelerated within the Van Allen belts themselves. The new explanation should help researchers better forecast onslaughts of Van Allen radiation, allowing satellite operators to minimize disruptions.