GENERAL: Meetings: Fall 2008 AGU

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Radiation Belt Special Session at the Fall AGU

At the Fall 2008 AGU, the following Union session was presented. This session highlighted the importance of radiation belt science over the last 50 years. Abstracts presented at this session can be seen for the oral session and the poster session.

U16: The Van Allen Radiation Belts and their impact on modern space science

In 1950 a small group of scientists gathered at the home of James A. Van Allen and proposed that the International Geophysical Year (IGY) be planned for 1957-58 during the expected maximum of solar activity. The IGY stimulated the U.S. government to propose Earth satellites as geophysical tools. Data from Explorer 1 (launched January 31,1958) and Explorer 3 (launched March 26, 1958) provided the first space-age scientific discovery: the existence of a doughnut-shaped region of charged particle radiation trapped by Earth's magnetic field. Today, we see that radiation belt processes are universal phenomena. Results from recent space missions have shown clear evidence that radiation belts exist at all strongly magnetized planets throughout our solar system. The particle acceleration physics that we study within Earth's radiation belts and our neighboring planets has far reaching implications beyond our solar system. In the relatively accessible planetary environs, we can study processes applicable in a whole host of cosmic settings.

In this special Union session we will explore the broad relevance of radiation belt studies to all of space science. The session will consist of both invited and contributed papers and we welcome observational, theoretical, and modeling results pertinent to radiation belt phenomena. Highly dynamical behavior of radiation belts still remains a mystery even 50 years after the original discoveries. During increased geomagnetic activity, radiation levels across the belts vary over orders of magnitude on timescales ranging from minutes to days. A large range of acceleration and loss mechanisms operating at different spatial and temporal scales compete over the global extent of the belts. While a number of local and global mechanisms have been identified as potentially important, their relative roles are not understood. We solicit contributions that address these and related topics, and also contributions that address how the physics of Earth's radiation belts might explain or otherwise impact particle radiation observed in distant extraterrestrial environments.