Invisible Shield Around the Earth Protects from 'Killer Electrons'
"It's almost like theses electrons are running into a glass wall in space," Daniel Baker, the study's lead author, said in a statement. "Somewhat like the shields created by force fields on Star Trek that were used to repel alien weapons, we are seeing an invisible shield blocking these electrons."
With dangerous particles whipping around space at near-light speeds (approximately more than 100,000 miles per second), it's lucky that this Star Trek-like force field is there to protect us.
The barrier was discovered in the Van Allen radiation belts, two rings above Earth held in place by Earth's magnetic field. Discovered in 1958, it's regarded as one of the first significant discoveries of the space age. It was at the edges of this belt where scientists first noticed a peculiar phenomenon - particles just stopping in mid-flight.
Scientists had speculated that interference from Earth's magnetic field or man-made radio waves were responsible, but now researchers suggest that the plasmasphere is playing a role.
The plasmasphere is a giant cloud of cold gas that begins 600 miles above Earth and stretches out into the radiation belts. It's possible that the plasma somehow scatters the electrons at the barrier, but more research is needed to confirm this theory.