Earth's Radiation Belts Tremble Under Impact of Solar Storm

  • Released Wednesday, December 15th, 2004
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:56PM
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Under the wave of energetic particles from the Halloween 2003 solar storm events, the Earth's radiation belts underwent significant changes in structure. This visualization is constructed using daily-averaged particle flux data from the SAMPEX satellite installed in a simple dipole model for the Earth's magnetic field. The toroidal structure of the belts corresponds to regions with electron fluxes in excess of 100 electrons/s/cm^2/steradian with energies of 2-6 MeV. The color-scale on the cross section is violet for low flux and white for high flux. The translucent gray arcs represent the fields lines of the Earth's dipole field. The 3-dimensional structure was built from the SAMPEX measurement by propagating the particle flux values along field lines of a simple magnetic dipole.

NOTE: This visualization shows the Earth's magnetic dipole field lines rotating rigidly with the Earth. Technically, this is inaccurate. Ions and electrons in the lower atmosphere can create currents which can make these lines 'drag' with Earth's rotation, but this will occur mostly near the Earth and not higher up. More details on this process can be found in the FAQ at the The Exploration of the Earth's Magnetosphere web site, Does the Earth's magnetic field rotate?.

Over time, the belts relax, expanding back to their original locations but some residual particles remain close to the Earth.

Over time, the belts relax, expanding back to their original locations but some residual particles remain close to the Earth.

Later, the outer belt has expanded even further and the inner belt retains some of its high particle flux.

Later, the outer belt has expanded even further and the inner belt retains some of its high particle flux.



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NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio


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