While human activity is traditionally associated with negative impacts on the planet by a range of scientific organizations, NASA recently came forward announcing that one technological advance, in particular, may have had an unexpected benefit, creating an artificial protective barrier around the world.
As reported by Newsweek, the very low frequency (VLF) radio communications emanating from the Earth are interacting with “particles in space.” As a result of the activity, a “shield” was created that helps protect the planet from high-energy radiation that may come toward the Earth naturally based on other activity within our solar system.
NASA Van Allen Probes were responsible for the discovery, showing how certain human activities reach beyond the surface and atmosphere, ultimately impacting the space around us.
The shielding barrier isn’t steady, coming and going depending on how the VLF radio communications are used at the time. However, scientists believe the shielding could help protect the Earth from certain space-based weather events, such as the geomagnetic storms associated with coronal mass ejections. Geomagnetic storms have the potential to disrupt communications satellites and take power grids offline, making the barrier a potentially valuable side effect of human activity.
In a statement, Phil Erickson, one of the scientists involved in analyzing the data from the probes, said, “A number of experiments and observations have figure out that, under the right conditions, radio communication signals in the VLF frequency range can, in fact, affect the properties of the high-energy radiation environment around the Earth.”
The barrier, referred to as the “VLF bubble” by NASA, extends to the edge of the Van Allen radiation belts, areas comprised of energetic charged particles from the solar wind. Without the bubble, the radiation boundaries of the belts would be closer to Earth. In fact, the inner limit of the Van Allen belts was recorded as being closer to the planet based on data obtained in the 1960s, a period where VLF use was less common.
NASA intends to run a series of tests to determine if the VLF bubble around the Earth could be a method for removing radiation from the space surrounding the planet.