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Hacking the Van Allen Radiation Belts

Hacking the Van Allen Radiation Belts - RF CafeThis is scary. Believe it or not, there is a group of scientists who think it might be a good idea to beam very low frequency (VLF) radiation into the upper atmosphere to erase the Van Allen radiation belts. I kid you not. An article in the March 2014 edition of IEEE's Spectrum magazine describes a plan to clear out the proton cloud residing in the inner belt (1,000 - 9,600 km altitude) and the electron cloud hovering in the outer belt (13,500 - 58,000 km altitude). Both Van Allen radiation belts, particularly the outer ring, are hazardous to electronics, i.e., satellites, because of the circuit-frying potential due to a build-up of electric charges that can, under certain conditions, penetrate an imperfect Faraday shield. Telstar I succumbed to the mechanism thanks to increased activity from a high-altitude nuclear explosion experiment a day before the Telstar launch. According to one scientist's calculations, "you'd need a million, 15-meter antennas operating for a few years" to disperse the belts. I shudder to think about the possibility that all it Van Allen radiation belts (Wikipedia) - RF Cafewould take to get funding for such a lunatic proposal would be to somehow convince politicians that doing so would reverse global warming - or that doing so would add to their current extreme wealth. If this was the April issue, I'd think they were attempting to fool me.

BTW, I recently posted a few articles reporting on the International Geophysical Year (IGY) activities in the late 1950s, during which time James Van Allen first discovered the radiation belts.

There's a great tag line on the website for this story: "Electric Light Orchestrated?"

Posted  March 5, 2014
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Kirt Blattenberger - RF Cafe Webmaster
Copyright: 1996 - 2018
    Kirt Blattenberger,

RF Cafe began life in 1996 as "RF Tools" in an AOL screen name web space totaling 2 MB. Its primary purpose was to provide me with ready access to commonly needed formulas and reference material while performing my work as an RF system and circuit design engineer. The Internet was still largely an unknown entity at the time and not much was available in the form of WYSIWYG ...

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