A team of researchers led by scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder, have discovered a ‘Star Trek’-style shield located nearly 200 miles above Earth. According to their research, the shield blocks “killer electrons.”
Professor Daniel Baker, Director of CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, who led the study, says the shield was found in the Van Allen radiation belts. The shield is held in place by Earth’s magnetic field, and the radiation belts are two doughnut-shaped rings that are filled with high-energy electrons and protons.
In a public statement Baker said, “It’s almost like these electrons are running into a glass wall in space. Somewhat like the shields created by force fields on Star Trek that were used to repel alien weapons, we are seeing an invisible shield blocking these electrons. It’s an extremely puzzling phenomenon.”
This is not the first time researchers have discussed the Van Allen belts. In 2012, two NASA studies found that the belts change more quickly than earlier considered, with particles in the area experiencing swift alterations in energy, time and spatial distribution.
Baker and his team have also discovered a third “transient” ring that is apparently used for “storage.” The third ring is positioned between the inner and outer Van Allen belts and comes and goes based on space weather conditions.
Iowa physicist James Van Allen discovered the belts in 1958 while pioneering the field of magnetospheric space research.
Six decades after they were first revealed to the world and the Van Allen radiation belts are still supplying researchers with plenty of reason to be excited about their existence.