Transcript of "RBSP Science Overview"

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The course of geomagnetic activity disturbances caused by flares on the sun, by big blogs of plasma coming out from the sun towards the Earth. The Earth's magnetic field is battered and shaken. Some of that energy is captured in the earth's magnetic field and through a variety of processes that energy, energizes particles in the Earth's radiation belts, up to energies that are hazardous to spacecraft and astronauts. The Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission, is NASA's mission to study the Earth's Van Allen Radiation Belts. Two invisible regions of highly charged particles in space that surround the Earth. Each of the two RBSP spacecraft carries five instrument suites and a total of eight instruments, the two spacecraft are identical. The region of space that we're talking about where the Radiation Belt Storm Probe spacecraft will go, is one that's occupied by communication spacecraft, by weather spacecraft, by all sorts of spacecraft that you use on a daily basis. There are two Van Allen Radiation Belts. The one closer to Earth about, 1,000 miles up, above the Earth's equator contains highly charged protons that are trapped there for years and years. The further out radiation belt, the outer radiation belt, at about a twelfth of a distance to the moon, contains a mixture of energetic electrons and energetic ions. Both of them are hazardous but hazardous in different ways and at different times. They're always changing waxing waning, increasing and decreasing in strength, we don't understand why. The goals of the Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission are to determine where the charged particles in the Earth's radiation belts come from, how they get energized, and how they're lost into space. The first use for the data from the mission will be by scientists who attempt to understand the physical processes that are occurring in the radiation belts. They'll use those data to develop models for space weather in the Earth's environment, the hazardous features that surround us. However the data can also be used by engineers to better design spacecraft. For example if you know how much radiation is out there, you know how thick to shield your spacecraft with walls of metal. The Earth's radiation belts pose a hazard to astronauts, a hazard because radiation, prolonged exposure to radiation can cause cancer. What we want to do is understand just how much radiation is out there, and just where it is and we can warn astronauts when to be inside and outside their spacecraft. The RBSP spacecraft are focused on the dynamic radiation belts in the Earth's inner magnetosphere, they're the only spacecraft that focus on those. Consequently they're a critical component in the series of phenomenon that link the Sun to the Earth.


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