NASA Space Probes Detect Human-Made Bubble Surrounding Earth
Humans have long been shaping Earth's landscape, but now scientists know we can shape our near-space environment as well. A certain type of communications - very low frequency (VLF) radio communications - have been found to interact with particles in space, affecting how and where they move. At times, these interactions can create a barrier around Earth against natural high energy particle radiation in space. "A number of experiments and observations have figured out that, under the right conditions, radio communications signals in the VLF frequency range can in fact affect the properties of the high-energy radiation environment around the Earth," said Phil Erickson, assistant director at the MIT Haystack Observatory. VLF signals are transmitted from ground stations at huge powers to communicate with submarines deep in the ocean. While these waves are intended for communications below the surface, they also extend out beyond our atmosphere, shrouding Earth in a VLF bubble. This bubble was seen by NASA's Van Allen Probes, which study electrons and ions in the near-Earth environment.