Humans May Have Accidentally Created a Radiation Shield Around Earth


NASA spends a lot of time researching the Earth and its surrounding space environment. One particular feature of interest are the Van Allen belts, so much so that NASA built special probes to study them! They’ve now discovered a protective bubble they believe has been generated by human transmissions in the VLF range.

VLF transmissions cover the 3-30 kHz range, and thus bandwidth is highly limited. VLF hardware is primarily used to communicate with submarines, often to remind them that, yes, everything is still fine and there’s no need to launch the nukes yet.  It’s also used for navigation and broadcasting time signals.

It seems that this human transmission has created a barrier of sorts in the atmosphere that protects it against radiation from space. Interestingly, the outward edge of this “VLF Bubble” seems to correspond very closely with the innermost edge of the Van Allen belts caused by Earth’s magnetic field. What’s more, the inner limit of the Van Allan belts now appears to be much farther away from the Earth’s surface than it was in the 1960s, which suggests that man-made VLF transmissions could be responsible for pushing the boundary outwards.

Overall, this seems like an accidental, but potentially positive effect of human activity – the barrier protects the Earth from potentially harmful radiation. NASA’s YouTube video on the topic suggests that understanding this mechanism better could enable us to protect our satellites and space vehicles from some of the harmful effects of the space environment.

NASA does a lot of high-end research – like the EM drive that’s got a lot of people very confused right now.

[Thanks bty!]

51 thoughts on “Humans May Have Accidentally Created a Radiation Shield Around Earth

          1. If you are only looking at X-rays and gamma rays,

            then yes, but that would mean that you are totally ignoring all the high energy charged particles ejected from our local star (Alpha particles and beta particles would be included here) and all the Cosmic radiation originating from outside the Solar System. We are shielded from most the high energy EM by our atmosphere. The same can not be said for the cosmic rays which are composed primarily of high-energy protons and atomic nuclei travelling near the speed of light with around a million times more energy when compared to the highest energy gamma rays.

  1. Hmmmm, interesting, can “Van Allan” belts be detected around other planets around other stars, if so a “fat” belt might be a positive indication of a technically advanced civilization.

    1. We just noticed the possible changes because of “recently” launched Van Allen probes, you can’t detect the belts unless you’re actually ON them. So no, we can’t look for them on other planets as indications of advanced civilizations. We’d spot the city lights by night before we can detect any changes to space environment.

        1. Well, if they are using VLF enough to change their radiation belt, we might as well just detect the VLF directly, unless we’re talking about a recently extinct civilization, as the changes shouldn’t last long.

          1. [SQ2KTN] use a phased array, several probes with their own IPS (interstellar positioning system).
            We need more probes…

            What about that star that is dimming in an “unpredictable pattern”? Maybe we found a civilization! Probably dead by now, but the signal has been sent and what better way than dimming a star?!

    2. I’m afraid that observing radiation belts isn’t possible from distance, you’ll need to launch a probe to such planet to measure them. But if you can get a probe to an exoplanet…

      1. Perhaps we can detect Compton scattering on starlight passing through Van Allen – like belts of exoplanets? It would be minuscule, because particles in the belts are mostly much heavier then electrons, but still …

  2. This video was obviously produced by someone who skimmed the paper and found something that would be cool to make a video about. It’s also mostly composed of BS.

    The paper is just a review of all the ways humans have been affecting the Van Allen belts, like exploding nuclear bombs in it. It does go over the possible changes in the belts due to VLF transmissions, but it in no way posits that that change has any positive or negative impacts, as the belts are quite volatile and the changes quite light.

    It’s bad enough that NASA is producing such misleading videos, please don’t go propagating those without at least checking the sources :-P

    1. Absolutely. Space weather affects the jet stream, but only ‘conspiracy theorists’ are willing to talk about it.

      +1 to George Noory, Clyde Lewis, and about 6 other radio hosts.

      1. Oh come on, surely you don’t believe we can’t have a 100% ability to completely simulate climate change with computer models and directly attribute it to anthropogenic CO2/VLF. /s

  3. I wonder, how are they so sure this is caused by VLF and not something else? We do many other things that could affect the van allen belts. Like other radio bands that make it into space, some upper atmosphere nuclear tests, many satellites and space debris floating around etc..

    1. “I wonder, how are they so sure this is caused by VLF and not something else? We do many other things that could affect the Van Allen belts.”

      We don’t overcharge for them.

  4. Now the first question that comes to my mind: could we use this discovery to create a ‘force field’ around Mars in order to compensate for the lack of magnetic field?

  5. This discovery is doubly useful.

    1. First, it provides an additional rationale for creating a backup to GPS called eLoran, using very powerful VLF transmitters that take over timing and navigation when GPS goes down. The more we depend on GPS alone, the more vulnerable we become.

    2. Second, we could build into these VLF transmitters the ability to elevate their power for a few hours or days. Yes, the expensive tubes in their finals might burn out more quickly, but if that might spare us from the enormous destructive impact of another Carrington Event (1859). That storm took out telegraph lines. Imagine what its equivalent today would do to our power and communications systems.

    “Studies have shown that a solar storm of this magnitude occurring today would likely cause more widespread problems for a modern and technology-dependent society.”

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