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The Van Allen Radiation Belts: New Missions and Measurements

Event Details

Event Dates: 

Monday, September 9, 2013 - 4:00pm

Seminar Location: 

  • JILA Auditorium

Speaker Name(s): 

Lauren Blum and Quintin Schiller

Speaker Affiliation(s): 

LASP, University of Colorado
Seminar Type/Subject

Scientific Seminar Type: 

  • Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences Seminar

Event Details & Abstract: 

The Van Allen radiation belts are a highly dynamic region of the Earth’s magnetopshere, with often-unpredictable variations in intensity and spatial extent. Understanding this variable radiation environment is critical to mitigating spacecraft anomalies often caused by energetic particles. New missions launched in the past year are helping us characterize and understand radiation belt dynamics, as well as revealing new mysteries to investigate. NASA’s Van Allen Probes, launched last August 2012 into a near-equatorial, geotransfer-like orbit, have an unprecedented suit of instruments providing extensive wave and particle coverage as the twin spacecraft traverse through the heart of the radiation belts. We’ll briefly highlight some of their latest results, and then focus on another, much smaller scale, radiation belt mission, the Colorado Student Space Weather Experiment (CSSWE) CubeSat. This CubeSat, designed, built, tested, and operated by students at University of Colorado, began its successful mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base on September 13, 2012, and continues to take valuable measurements of energetic particles in the near-Earth space environment long after its nominal mission lifetime. The status and results from CSSWE will be presented, along with some conjunctive studies combining CSSWE and Van Allen Probe measurements to better understand radiation belt electron acceleration and loss processes. CSSWE is a prime example of how small inexpensive CubeSats can be used to complement larger missions and significantly enhance their science return.