The impact that humans have on the planet is known, accepted and must be controlled. There is no doubting that our actions as human beings have profound effects on our ecosystems as much as the dynamic currents that make the world turn. But in 2017, NASA discovered that the influence of man extends even further beyond the atmosphere… into outer space.
A strange barrier around Earth
These surprising revelations are certainly shocking to hear for the first time: Man creates barrier around the earth without even knowing about it. In 2012, NASA launched two space probes designed to work collaboratively during their journey to the heart of the Van Allen Belts. These radiation belts form a toroidal zone (doughnut-shaped) charged with energetic particles. When they meet, the outer atmosphere gives birth to the polar aurorae.
Last year the probes spotted a strange signal during their trip. As they measured the activity of energetic particles captured by the earth’s magnetic field, they discovered that these dangerous solar discharges were kept at bay by an unknown field of waves.
Low frequency waves involved
By analysing these results researchers found that this barrier had pushed the Van Allen belts away from Earth in recent decades. The reason for this distancing was these low frequency waves or VLFs (Very Low Frequency). Research at NASA has confirmed that these waves, used more and more since the 1960’s, can influence the way in which particles move around in space.
‘Numerous experiments and observations have confirmed that under certain circumstances, radio communication signals in VLFs can affect the properties of high-energy radiation in the environment around Earth’ states Phil Erickson in his study that he led with his team.
These waves are regularly used in the fields of science, engineering and the military. Located between 3 and 30 kHz, they are mainly used to transmit coded messages over long distances and a particularly useful in submarine communications. This is because they can easily pass through the depths of the ocean without being corrupted.
An unintentional bubble
It was only with hindsight that NASA engineers realised that these waves had leaked into the environment around Earth, eventually forming this unintentional bubble. However, unlike the impact we can have directly on our blue planet, the one we have on space, through this barrier is for once positive. By understanding how VLFs can repel cosmic radiation, we can understand how to better protect our satellites.
Unfortunately, on other fronts, the impact of human beings in space remains dramatic. Since the nuclear explosions created belts of artificial radiation around Earth, there are now, too many satellites surrounding our planet. There is still a lot of work to do before thinking about conquering new extra-terrestrial territories.
Check out the video above for more on this incredible barrier!