In 2017, NASA’s space probe detected a massive man-made ‘barrier’ in the vicinity of Earth.
And tests have confirmed that it is indeed impacting the space weather beyond our planet’s atmosphere.
This means that we are not changing the Earth so severely, scientists are naming a whole new geological era after us – our activities are also changing the space.
But the good news is that unlike our influence on the planet, the hump bubble we created in space is actually working in our favor.
Back in 2012, NASA launched two space probes to work closely with each other as they cycled through Earth’s Van Allen belt at speeds of about 3,200 km / h (2,000 mph).
Our planet is surrounded by two such radiation belts (and a temporary third one) – the inner belt extends about 640 to 9,600 km (400 to 6,000 mi) below the Earth’s surface, while the outer belt is about 13,500 to 58,000 km Is at altitude (8,400 to 36,000 miles).
In 2017, Van Allen Probs detected something strange as they monitored the activity of charged particles caught within the Earth’s magnetic field – these dangerous solar discharges being placed in the bay by some sort of low-frequency barrier.
When researchers investigated, it found that this barrier had been actively pushing the Van Allen belt away from Earth in the last few decades, and now the lower limit of radiation currents is actually farther from us than in the 1960s.
So what has changed?
A certain type of broadcast, called very low frequency (VLF) radio communication, has become much more common now than it was in the 60s, and NASA’s team confirmed how and where they would put some particles in space Can affect.
In other words, thanks to VLF, we now have anthropological (or man-made) space weather.
“Several experiments and observations have shown that, under the right conditions, radio communications signals in the VLF frequency range can actually affect the properties of high-energy radiation environment around the Earth,” said one of the team, Phil 2017 Erikson from the MIT Haystack Observatory in Massachusetts.
Most of us will not have much to do with VLF signals in our everyday lives, but they are a mainstay in many engineering, scientific and military operations.
With frequencies between 3 and 30 kHz, they are very vulnerable to carrying audio transmissions, but they are perfect for transmitting coded messages over long distances or deep water.
The most common use of VLF signals is to communicate with deep-sea submarines, but because their large wavelengths may vary around large obstacles such as mountain ranges, they are also used to receive transmissions over difficult terrain.
It was not intended for VLF signals to go anywhere other than Earth, but it turns out that they have leaked into space around our planet, and have gone on long enough to form a giant protective bubble. .
When Van Allen Probs compared the location of VLF bubbles to the boundary of Earth’s radiation belts, he found that what initially looked like an interesting coincidence – “The outer boundary of VLF bubbles almost matches the inner edge of Van Allen radiation . Belt, “NASA said.
But once they found out that VLF signals could actually affect the motion of charged particles within these radiation belts, they realized that our unknowingly man-made barrier is progressively pushing them backward.
One of the team, Dan Baker, from the Colorado Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, referred to it as an “impenetrable barrier”.
While our protective VLF bubble is probably the best effect we humans have made on the space around our planet, it’s certainly not the only one – we’ve been making our mark on space since the 19th century, and in particular In the last 50 years, everyone was angry when nuclear explosions occurred.
“These explosions created artificial radiation belts near the Earth, resulting in major damage to many satellites,” the NASA team explained.
“Other anthropogenic effects on the space environment include chemical release experiments, high-frequency wave heating of the ionosphere, and the interaction of VLF waves with the radiation belt.”
Astronomer Carl Sagan once wanted to find uneven signs of life on Earth in space – find out, if you know where to look, there are a bunch of them.
Posted by Science Space Review.
A version of this story was first published in May 2017.