NASA / DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
US Explorer 1 satellite and Earth's radiation belts, artwork. Explorer 1 was the first US satellite. It was launched on 31st January 1958. With its on-board Geiger counter, Explorer 1 discovered very strong areas of cosmic radiation around Earth. These were named Van Allen belts after the astrophysicist James Van Allen (1914-2006), who proposed the use of the Geiger counter. The inner belt (blue) represents a ring of highly energetic protons, originating from cosmic rays and solar wind, that are trapped in Earth's magnetic field. The outer belt (pink) represents a ring of protons and helium ions from solar wind that have much lower energy.
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