🔭 50-year-old mathematical errors discovered in study of radiation belts surrounding Earth

2024-03-22 05:00:12

Correcting several 50-year-old mathematical errors will strengthen the protection of space technologies.

Greg Cunningham, a space scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, discovered errors in the mathematical calculations used for decades to understand diffusion of waves electromagnetics and their impact on electrons trapped by the Earth’s magnetic fields. This advance promises to improve the protection of space technologies against the harmful effects of energy belts. radiationwhether natural or artificial (following theexplosion of a charge nuclear).

The Van Allen belts, located around the Terrerepresent a crucial area of ​​study for understanding the effects of radiation on technology spatial. These natural belts, illustrated in jaune around the planetare comparable to the artificial belts which could form following nuclear explosions at high altitude. The representation in rouge in the image indicates an artificial high-intensity belt, while the terms LEO/MEO/GEO refer to the different types of Earth orbits.
Credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory.

These radiation belts, known as Van Allen belts, surround Earth and are crucial for understanding how trapped electrons can damage space equipment. Cunningham emphasizes the importance of these models for predicting potential threats to space technology and for developing effective radiation belt remediation strategies.

The scientist was interested in the errors present in the theory quasilinear, an approach fundamental to study plasma turbulence and diffusion particles. By reviewing previous work based on this theory, he identified significant inaccuracies affecting the results of simulation models. These errors, which went unnoticed due to the reputation of the original authors, could lead to major differences in the calculated diffusion rates.

Correcting these errors will allow researchers to review studies published over the past decades and refine their understanding of space phenomena. This discovery was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physicsmarking an important step for the heliophysics community in improving the modeling of near-Earth space environments.

Protecting space assets from cosmic radiation and solar wind particles is essential for the sustainability of theexploration and space exploitation. Cunningham’s work contributes significantly to this mission, providing a stronger basis for predicting and mitigating radiation risks in space.

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