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