On Tuesday, Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency launched a new satellite into orbit. The satellite is meant to study our planet’s radiation belts in order to provide important data to scientists which can help them better understand the phenomenon.
Japan’s newest satellite is named ERG which stands for the Exploration of Energization and Radiation Geospace. It was launched from the Uchinoura Space Center in southern Japan, on top of an Epsilon-2 Launch Vehicle.
The satellite itself is equipped with nine measuring instruments meant to analyze the Van Allen radiation belts. They consist of regions where Earth’s magnetic field is able to trap charged particles with high amounts of energy. These types of particles are able to move very fast and can damage various instruments aboard a spacecraft and even pose a health risk to astronauts.
The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, also known as JAXA, stated that the purpose of the ERG satellite is to determine how the high-energy electrons are actually created and accelerated. Scientists are also interested in finding out how space storms develop, and they hope that the data provided by the satellite will sate their curiosity.
The ERG satellite is capable of making comprehensive observations of both electrons and ions near the equator area of geospace, which scientists believe is the region where the particles become accelerated. These regions are commonly known as the Van Allen radiation belts and were discovered in 1958.
Besides JAXA’s ERG satellite mission, NASA also sent two robotic spacecraft in 2012, known as the Van Allen probes, to study the phenomenon. They revealed how the radiation belts help protect us by shielding the planet from high-energy cosmic rays. The probes were also successful in obtaining clues on why the belts can swell drastically in response to the energy from the sun.
The ERG satellite mission will last around a year and it will involve orbiting the Earth in an elliptical manner which will take it over 18,600 miles above the surface of the planet. This distance would position the satellite right between the radiation belts which extend approximately between 630 miles and 37,000 from the surface.
What do you think about JAXA’s mission to study the radiation belts?
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