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Radiation Belts

Van Allen radiation belts, Geiger counter, University of Iowa, Electronic circuits, space missions

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Radiation Belts, zones in space around Earth, and the planets Jupiter and Saturn, containing high-energy protons and electrons.

A Geiger counter (detector of charged particles) installed in the first U.S. satellite, Explorer 1, launched on January 31, 1958, gave the first evidence that the earth is surrounded by regions containing charged particles of high energy. These regions were then called the Van Allen radiation belts, after James A. Van Allen of the University of Iowa, who was head of the team of scientists that conducted the experiments.

Hazards of Radiation Belts

Electronic circuits and solar cells of spacecraft deteriorate when exposed for long periods to fast protons, which can penetrate several millimeters of metal. The very intense radiation belts around Jupiter, especially, required effective protection of the electronic circuitry of the Pioneer and Voyager spacecrafts. For living organisms, the radiation has the general detrimental effects of ionizing radiation, so space missions are generally planned in such a way as to minimize exposure of the astronauts to the most intense regions of the radiation belts.



Article key phrases:

Van Allen radiation belts, Geiger counter, University of Iowa, Electronic circuits, space missions, experiments, living organisms, Saturn, Jupiter, astronauts, Pioneer, long periods, exposure, satellite, earth, evidence, Explorer, James, space, January, way

 
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