British Antarctic Survey Consolidated Grant
- Start date
- 1 April, 2022
- End date
- 31 March, 2025
Radiation belts of very high energy electrons and protons can form around some planets – at the Earth these large donut shaped regions in space are often called the Van Allen belts after James Van Allen. The extremely energetic particles in the belts are a hazard to both astronauts and spacecraft and understanding and predicting the ebb and flow of these particles is a challenging task.
At the Earth we now understand that waves in the electric and magnetic fields that pervade the space around a planet can interact with the electrons in the plasma there not only to decrease their energy and sometimes remove particles from the radiation belts, but also to significantly increase particle energy. This resonant wave-particle interaction process is very important at the Earth and we are now testing its effects at other planets to see if it is more widely applicable in the Solar System, and perhaps the Universe.
Specifically we will be looking at the radiation belts of Saturn in this project, to include important newly recognised transport processes. This project will help to set new research goals for future spacecraft missions to the planets and develop computer models that will be of direct use to the space insurance, satellite construction and satellite service industries.