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Empirical Patterns of High-Energy Particle Dynamics of the Van Allen Radiation Belts

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Document pages: 13 pages

Abstract: The Van Allen radiation belts consist of megaelectron volt particles trapped in theEarth’s magnetic field mainly with protons at low altitudes andelectrons at high altitudes. These concentric, donut-shaped radiation belts are constantly changingdue to a variety of physical processes caused by specific types of heliosphericstructure. The radiation poses risks for astronauts and spacecraft systems. Theunderstanding of these processes that operate across the universe can help withdesigns of future space missions as well as the understanding of the universe.The data gathered from the last three months of the Radiation Belt Storm Probesmission (RBSP mission) is examined for patterns and trends in the dynamics ofthe radiation belts and their relationships with solar activities. From thedata, it is shown that the patterns of the high-energy particle dynamics in thebelts follow the changes in solar activity. When the Sun’s magnetic fieldweakens, cosmic rays from deep space are able to carry an increased flux ofenergetic particles into the solar system. The outer belt exhibits a pattern ofelectron energization during cycles lasting an average of 27 days,corresponding to the time taken for one solar rotation. The sudden outwardshift of the belts on July 19th, 2019 was most likely caused by the shutdown ofone of the two Van Allen probes, as the relative position of the probe to the beltschanged. Two solar wind streams that arrived from August 27th to the 28thcaused the “dropout” event on August 28th, as the contact between the solarwind streams and magnetosphere pushed the magnetosphere’s boundary and enabledthe particles outside the shifted boundary to escape into space. A positivepolarity coronal hole high speed stream (CH HSS) contributed to the intenseSeptember electron re-energization process in the radiation belts starting onSeptember 1st.

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