The Van Allen Probes, the second mission of NASA's Living With a Star program, are providing unprecedented insight into the physical dynamics of the radiation belts and are providing scientists the data they need to make predictions of changes in this critical region of space.
Since their launch on Aug. 30 2012, the two Van Allen Probes have orbited the Earth, sampling the harsh radiation belt environment where major space weather activity occurs and many spacecraft operate.
The two spacecraft are measuring the particles, magnetic and electric fields, and waves that fill geospace. Only with two spacecraft taking identical measurements, and following the same path, can scientists begin to understand how the belts change in both space and time.
October 9, 2013
In The Loop: Van Allen Probes Provide Way to “Watch” Juno Fly-by
The Van Allen Probes team at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) has created a visualization that provides a way to “watch” today’s fly-by of NASA’s Juno spacecraft and the current space weather above Earth.
September 27, 2013
Ultra-fast Electrons Explain Third Radiation Ring Around Earth
In the already complicated science of what creates – and causes constant change in – the radiation belts surrounding Earth, researchers have announced that some of the electrons reach such enormous energies that they are driven by an entirely different set of physical processes.
August 30, 2013
Van Allen Probes Mark One Year In Orbit
NASA’s Van Allen Probes launched on Aug. 30, 2012 on a mission to unlock the mysteries of the Van Allen radiation belts. Their first year has resulted in surprise discoveries and better understanding of this mysterious and hazardous region of space.
August 12, 2013
The Sun's Magnetic Field is About to Flip
The sun's global magnetic field is about to flip, a sign that Solar Max has arrived – and the Van Allen Probes will help answer how this event will affect space weather and the radiation belts.
July 25, 2013
Van Allen Probes Discover Particle Accelerator in Heart of Van Allen Radiation Belts
Scientists have discovered a massive particle accelerator in the heart of one of the harshest regions of near-Earth space, a region of super-energetic, charged particles surrounding the globe called the Van Allen radiation belts.
June 21, 2013
In the Loop: Van Allen Probes Team Member Selected For NASA Astronaut Training
For years, APL’s Christina Hammock created complex scientific instruments bound for space. Now, as one of eight new NASA astronaut candidates, she has her own chance to explore the stars.
Radiation Belt Science
Wondering what's new in the field of radiation belt science? Check out this website, run by Geoff Reeves, one of the science team members for the Energetic Particle, Composition, and Thermal Plasma Suite (ECT) (visit Geoff''s “Radiation Belt Science” Facebook page here).
Music Video by the Ionized Gases
Every second, a million tons of energized matter blasts off from the surface of Sun. Where does this “solar wind” go? Follow the speedy voyage of some protons, electrons and ions as they make a magnetic connection with Earth – becoming trapped in the Van Allen radiation belts that surround our planet. As they bounce, drift and spiral through the belts, some particles will shoot down Earth’s long magnetic tail, while others spin back to the upper reaches of the magnetic field and spark the auroras – the amazing celestial light show we know as the northern (or southern) lights. Earth can be a crazy, magnetic place – watch this video to see how!
Conversation with the Team
Mission Overview and Sun Earth Connections
Rock and Roll Acoustic Test
Meet the Instrument Principal Investigators
Follow all of the upcoming press briefings and launch coverage of the Van Allen Probes on NASA TV
Click here to go to NASA TV
Exploring the Extremes of Spaceweather
Twin spacecraft, designed to withstand the incredibly harsh environment of the Earth's radiation belts, will explore a region too dangerous for most...
View PDF for more info. >
Earth's aurora are caused by collisions between fast-moving electrons which come from the magnetosphere, and oxygen and nitrogen in our upper atmosphere.
View all Fun Facts >