James Van Allen, US astrophysicist

James Van Allen, US astrophysicist

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Credit: NASA/VRS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: James Van Allen (1914-2006), US astrophysicist. In 1958, Allen argued for the use of a Geiger counter (radiation detector) on Explorer I, the first American scientific satellite. The counter detected belts of ionised particles trapped by the Earth's magnetic field. These belts were named Van Allen belts after him. Van Allen retired in 1985 and was awarded the Crafoord Prize for Astronomy in 1989.

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