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9 July 2018

Listen: The sound of electromagnetic energy moving between Saturn, Enceladus

New research from Cassini’s up-close Grand Finale orbits shows a surprisingly powerful and dynamic interaction of plasma waves moving from Saturn to its moon Enceladus and its rings.

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29 May 2018

The case of the relativistic particles solved

Encircling Earth are two enormous rings — called the Van Allen radiation belts — of highly energized ions and electrons. Various processes can accelerate these particles to relativistic speeds, which endanger spacecraft unlucky enough to enter these giant bands of damaging radiation. Scientists had previously identified certain factors that might cause particles in the belts to become highly energized, but they had not known which cause dominates. Now, with new research from NASA’s Van Allen Probes and Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms — THEMIS — missions, published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, the verdict is in.

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21 March 2018

August 2017 SpaceX rocket launch created large circular shock wave

The unusual trajectory the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket took when delivering a Taiwanese satellite into orbit last August created an atmospheric shock wave four times bigger than the area of California, a new study finds.

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16 March 2018

New study finds space radiation is increasingly more hazardous

As future missions look to travel back to the moon or even to Mars, new research cautions that the exposure to radiation is much higher than previously thought and could have serious implications on both astronauts and satellite technology.

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20 February 2018

Found: “Footprint” of Jupiter’s moon Callisto

The elusive “footprint” of Jupiter’s moon Callisto has been spotted for the first time near the south pole of the giant planet, according to a new study.

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18 December 2017

NASA Solves How a Jupiter Jet Stream Shifts into Reverse

Speeding through the atmosphere high above Jupiter’s equator is an east–west jet stream that reverses course on a schedule almost as predictable as a Tokyo train’s. Now, a NASA-led team has identified which type of wave forces this jet to change direction.

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15 November 2017

Scientists locate whistling space electrons’ origins

New research using data from NASA’s Van Allen Probes mission and FIREBIRD II CubeSat has shown that a common plasma wave in space is likely responsible for the impulsive loss of high-energy electrons into Earth’s atmosphere.

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24 July 2017

NASA mission surfs through waves in space to understand space weather

The space surrounding our planet is full of restless charged particles and roiling electric and magnetic fields, which create waves around Earth. One type of wave, plasmaspheric hiss, is particularly important for removing charged particles from the Van Allen radiation belts, a seething coil of particles encircling Earth, which can interfere with satellites and telecommunications. A new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, used data from NASA’s Van Allen Probes spacecraft to discover that hiss is more complex than previously understood.

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10 April 2017

O marks the spot for magnetic reconnection

ESA’s Cluster mission is challenging the current view of magnetic reconnection – the breaking and immediate rearrangement of magnetic field lines in the collision of two plasma flows. According to a new study, most of the energy dissipated during a reconnection event is not released at the crossings, or X-lines, between the two plasma flows but rather in swirling vortices, or O-lines, where magnetic field lines bundle up and spiral together. The new finding, which contradicts the accepted consensus, is an important step in the process of understanding the mechanisms that accelerate particles in space plasma.

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4 April 2017

Impending weak solar activity could expose aircrews to higher radiation levels

Aircrews and frequent fliers may soon experience an uptick in radiation exposure due to the upcoming low point in the solar cycle, when weak solar activity provides less protection against cosmic rays entering the atmosphere.

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