This is an artist's conception of the Earth and the inner and outer radiation belts that surround it.
Click on image for full size
Windows to the Universe
You may have seen a spider web catch bugs in it. Well, the Earth's magnetic field is kind of like a spider's web. It catches particles (protons and electrons) in it. The Earth's magnetic field catches so many protons and electrons that it forms rings around the Earth. Scientists call these rings radiation belts.
The radiation belts can be dangerous to humans, animals and electronic equipment. So planes, satellites, the space shuttle and space stations never stay long in the radiation belts...they just quickly pass through them if they have to!
The radiation belts were discovered by James Van Allen in 1958.
Last modified May 27, 2003 by Lisa Gardiner.
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