Two high radiation regions surround Earth - the inner and outer Van Allen radiation belts.
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Windows to the Universe
One main type of radiation, particle radiation, is the result of subatomic
particles hurtling at tremendous speeds. Protons, cosmic rays, and alpha and
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
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
is not a particle but rather a high-energy form of electromagnetic
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
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Electromagnetic radiation is the result of oscillating electric and magnetic fields. The wave of energy generated by such vibrations moves through space at the speed of light. And well it should... for...more
The neutrino is an extremely light (and possibly massless) neutral particle. The neutrino belongs to the family of leptons, the particles that interact through the so-called weak force. For this reason...more
Radiation comes in two basic types: electromagnetic radiation transmitted by photons, and particle radiation consisting of electrons, protons, alpha particles, and so forth. Electromagnetic radiation,...more
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
The Sun is surrounded by a "bubble" in space called the heliosphere. In a sense, we Earthlings live within the outer atmosphere of our Sun. The solar wind fills the heliosphere with energetic...more
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 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