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The two concentric rings of high-speed particles that encircle the Earth are finally giving up the secrets of their origin — 55 years after their discovery. Two NASA probes have found evidence that the Van Allen belts, as the rings are known, are responsible for accelerating the particles, rather than collecting energetic particles that originated elsewhere. Space scientists think that their latest findings1 could also account for the even more energetic belts circling Saturn and Jupiter, as well as high-energy radiation associated with worlds beyond the Solar System and even some Sun-like stars.
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