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NASA Spots Man-Made Bubble Around Earth, What Is It?

First Posted: May 22, 2017 04:04 AM EDT

American space agency NASA has discovered a man-made bubble around Earth that shows humans can also shape the planet’s near-space environment, apart from its surface areas and landscapes. The artificial barrier reportedly stops high-energy space radiation from reaching the planet.

However, what is this human-made bubble? According to BGR, very low frequency (VLF) radio communications can interact with space particles, impacting where and how they move. Sometimes these interactions can lead to the formation of a barrier around the planet, subsequently saving Earth from natural high-energy particle radiation.

“A number of observations and experiments have understood that, under the right conditions, radio communications signals in the VLF frequency range can, in fact, impact the properties of the high-energy radiation environment around the Earth,” Phil Erickson from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) said, as reported by Pulse Headlines.

Incidentally, VLF signals are transmitted from ground stations at high powers to communicate with submarines located at great depths in the ocean. The waves are meant to reach below the surface; however, they also go beyond Earth’s atmosphere and surround the planet in a VLF bubble.

In fact, the man-made bubble can also be seen by NASA’s Van Allen Probes -- a spacecraft located high above the surface of Earth to study ions and electrons in the near-Earth environment. Interestingly, the spacecraft has noted a coincidence wherein the VLF bubble’s outward extent corresponds almost exactly to the Van Allen radiation belts’ inner edge. The belts are a layer of charged particles held in position by the magnetic fields of Earth.

According to researchers, VLF transmissions may play a role in removing excess radiation from the near-Earth environment that appears during intense space weather periods, like when the Sun erupts with massive clouds of energy and particles. Plans have already been put into place to examine if VLF transmissions can indeed serve as a way to do so.

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