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Two high radiation regions surround Earth - the inner and outer Van Allen radiation belts.
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Windows to the Universe

Particle Radiation

One main type of radiation, particle radiation, is the result of subatomic particles hurtling at tremendous speeds. Protons, cosmic rays, and alpha and beta particles are some of the most common types of particle radiation.

Particle radiation can harm living creatures and can short out electronic circuits... so it is dangerous for humans and robots alike.

Protons and electrons are two of the most common types of particles encountered. Tear apart an atom of hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, and you get a proton and an electron... hence the abundance of this type of radiation.

Strip the two electrons from the second most abundant element, helium, and you are left with a nucleon containing two protons and two neutrons. This helium-nucleus particle is called an "alpha particle". Free electrons, when zipping around as radiation, are known as "beta particles". A third type, gamma radiation, is not a particle but rather a high-energy form of electromagnetic radiation.

Neutrinos are bizarre particles that can pass through almost anything, even miles (kilometers) of solid rock. Because neutrino radiation rates may be able to tell us about the nuclear reactions at the core of the Sun, scientists have gone to great lengths to try to devise detectors that sense these elusive particles.

There is a second main type of radiation, which deals with the transfer of energy by waves from vibrating electric and magnetic fields. That type of radiation is called "electromagnetic radiation".

Last modified June 22, 2005 by Randy Russell.

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Radiation

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Saturn's Aurora

Have you ever seen the Southern or Northern Lights? Did you know that Earth isn't the only planet that puts on these beautiful light shows, also known as the "aurora"? Auroral displays have also been observed...more

Space Weather throughout the Solar System

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Atomic Physics & Particle Physics

Atoms and the minute particles from which they are made strongly influence the nature of many phenomena that play out their roles on astronomical scales. The fields of atomic physics and particle physics...more

Earth's Magnetic Poles

Earth has a magnetic field. If you imagine a gigantic bar magnet inside of Earth, you'll have a pretty good idea what Earth's magnetic field is shaped like. Of course, Earth DOESN'T have a giant bar magnet...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA