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March 1 2013

Van Allen belt study reveals surprises


BOULDER, Colo., Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Researchers say data from NASA space probes has forced a revision of theories about radiation belts around the Earth just a few thousand miles above our heads.

Instruments designed and built by the University of Colorado Boulder have returned new finding on the Van Allen radiation belts -- donut-shaped rings of electrons that encircle the Earth that were one of the first discoveries of the space age.

Two spacecraft launched in 1958 carrying instruments built by James Van Allen showed the presence of two distinct rings of high-energy electrons.

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