Scientists race through the Antarctic snow to launch one of 20 balloons as part of NASA’s BARREL (Balloon Array for Radiation belt Relativistic Electron Losses) mission. Each balloon is equipped with instruments to help track how electrons from giant radiation belts surrounding Earth travel down magnetic field lines toward the poles. (Credit: NASA/S. Spain)

Twenty NASA Balloons Studying the Radiation Belts

Feb. 5, 2013 — In the bright, constant sun of the Antarctic summer, a NASA-funded team is launching balloons. There are twenty of these big, white balloons, each of which sets off on a different day for a leisurely float around the South Pole to collect information about something far more speedy: the rain of particles that can precipitate out of two gigantic donuts around Earth known as the radiation belts.

The mission — called BARREL (Balloon Array for Radiation belt Relativistic Electron Losses) — is led by Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. BARREL works in conjunction with NASA’s Van Allen Probes, two spacecraft currently orbiting around Earth to study the belts, which are also known as the Van Allen Belts. Both the probes and the belts are named after James Van Allen who originally discovered them in 1958.

Read more: Twenty NASA balloons studying the radiation belts — Science Daily.

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