The radiating "donut shape" around Earth has a surprising structure discovered this week. The scientists who made the discovery have dubbed it "zebra stripes."
Wired has the story:
The Van Allen belts, which extend high above our planet’s atmosphere, are made of high-energy protons and electrons emanating from the sun that have become trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field. The belts were discovered in the 1950s, but in 2012 NASA launched twin satellites called the Van Allen probes to study them in detail. In the course of their work, the satellites noticed a population of highly energetic electrons that are slanted relative to the rest of the belts. Because of their tilt, researchers thought they look like zebra stripes. The colorful graphic above shows the newly discovered structure’s banded pattern, making them look a bit more like those terrible Fruit Stripe chewing gum packs you bought as a kid when all the good flavors were sold out.
Most activity in the Van Allen belts is governed by the sun. When our local star is near the peak of its solar cycle and producing large amounts of activity, radiation levels in the belts can significantly increase (which sometimes becomes problematic for astronauts). When scientists first saw the zebra stripe pattern, they assumed it was in some way connected to the sun’s activity. Surprisingly, it’s not the sun but the Earth that is responsible for the Van Allen zebra stripes.
To read more, head over to Wired.
The way that you think about stress can actually transform the effect that it has on you – and others.
- Stress is contagious, and the higher up in an organization you are the more your stress will be noticed and felt by others.
- Kelly McGonigal teaches "Reset your mindset to reduce stress" for Big Think Edge.
- Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Three scientists publish a paper proving that Mercury, not Venus, is the closest planet to Earth.
- Earth is the third planet from the Sun, so our closest neighbor must be planet two or four, right?
- Wrong! Neither Venus nor Mars is the right answer.
- Three scientists ran the numbers. In this YouTube video, one of them explains why our nearest neighbor is... Mercury!
The blood of horseshoe crabs is harvested on a massive scale in order to retrieve a cell critical to medical research. However, recent innovations might make this practice obsolete.
- Horseshoe crabs' blue blood is so valuable that a quart of it can be sold for $15,000.
- This is because it contains a molecule that is crucial to the medical research community.
- Today, however, new innovations have resulted in a synthetic substitute that may end the practice of farming horseshoe crabs for their blood.
The distance between the American dream and reality is expressed best through literature.
- Literature expands our ability to feel empathy and inspires compassion.
- These 10 novels tackle some facet of the American experience.
- The list includes a fictional retelling of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard, and hiding out in inner-city Newark.
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