Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Research | By Jo Caldwell

Man-Made Radio Signals Have Created A Giant Bubble Around Earth

Man-Made Radio Signals Have Created A Giant Bubble Around Earth

According to a new paper published in Space Science Reviews, the high altitude nuclear testing conducted by both the USSR and United States created "artificial radiation belts" near Earth.

In certain situations, these interactions can create a barrier surrounding the planet and protect it from solar flares, coronal mass ejections, and other potentially unsafe space weather, NASA said. But a new NASA study has revealed that human activities are also having severe impacts and effects on space climate, located a million light-years beyond the atmosphere of Earth. Now scientists at NASA have discovered that we have also been shaping our near-space environments with radio signals.

The Cold War tests, which exploded explosives at statures from 16 to 250 miles over the surface, copied some of these normal impacts. The Teak test, which took place on August 1, 1958, was notable for the artificial aurora that resulted. The energetic particles released by the test likely followed Earth's magnetic field lines to the Polynesian island nation, inducing the aurora. The test was conducted over Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean.

"Ivy Mike" atmospheric nuclear test, taken in November 1952.

As the U.S. space agency announced on Wednesday, the Van Allen space probes have detected a new, artificial bubble surrounding Earth that was the result of the interplay between very low frequency (VLF) radio communications and high-energy radiation particles.

Other tests created artificial radiation belts much like the natural Van Allen belts surrounding Earth.

The Van Allen Probes, NASA explained, study electrons and ions in the near-Earth environment.

The so-called impenetrable barrier extends to the inner edges of the Van Allen radiation belts, which are a collection of charged particles held in place by our planet's magnetic field. Humans sent fewer VLF transmissions back then, leading NASA scientists to speculate that if the low-frequency waves were not around, then the Van Allen belts would likely be much closer to the surface of the planet than they now are. Well, recent observations from the Van Allen Probes, a pair of heavily shielded spacecraft that monitor the belts, suggest that these fluctuations are being diminished by what appears to be humanity's use of VLF radio transmitters which are often employed in military communications and navigation.

The particles remained trapped in these regions for weeks and, in one case, years, affecting electronic systems aboard high-flying satellites. These belts can shrink down or swell up enough to damage our satellites in orbit with radiation, and now they are much further from Earth than they were a few decades ago.

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