The Earth's radiation belts: What we know and what we don't know prior to the NASA Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission

Dr Mick Denton, Physics

Tuesday 20 December 2011, 1615-1650
Lecture Theatre 1, Management School Building

The existence of highly energetic electrons and ions orbiting the Earth has been known since the early space age. These particles form the radiation belts and although our knowledge of the region has improved during more than fifty years of investigation, there are still fundamental questions to answer.

The processes which contribute to electron acceleration and loss are generally assumed to involve wave-particle interactions, transport, and/or collisions with the upper atmosphere. However, current theory has not proved able to explain how the electron flux in the outer radiation belt may change by up to five orders of magnitude within around 24 hours.

The upcoming NASA Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) mission, scheduled for a 2012 launch, aims to answer many of the outstanding questions. This talk will focus on a brief history of radiation belt research, current understanding, and an overview of recent research results.