radiation belts

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Term: radiation belts

Regions of the magnetosphere roughly 1.2 to 6 Earth radii above the equator in which charged particles are stably trapped by closed geomagnetic field lines. There are two belts. The inner belt is part of the plasmasphere and corotates with the Earth; its maximum proton density lies near 5000 km. Inner belt protons are mostly high energy (10-50 MeV range) and originate from the decay of secondary neutrons created during collisions between cosmic rays and upper atmospheric particles. The outer belt extends on to the magnetopause on the sunward side.  The altitude of maximum proton density is near 16,000-20,000 km. Outer belt protons are lower energy (about 200 eV to 1 MeV) and come from the solar wind. The outer belt is also characterized by highly variable fluxes of energetic electrons. The radiation belts are often called the ”Van Allen radiation belts” because they were discovered in 1968 by a research group at the University of Iowa led by Professor J. A. Van Allen.

Created 2023.04.16
Last Modified 2023.04.16
Contributed by Ryan McGranaghan