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Very-Low-Frequency transmitters bifurcate energetic electron belt in near-earth space.

  • Author(s): Hua, Man;
  • Li, Wen;
  • Ni, Binbin;
  • Ma, Qianli;
  • Green, Alex;
  • Shen, Xiaochen;
  • Claudepierre, Seth G;
  • Bortnik, Jacob;
  • Gu, Xudong;
  • Fu, Song;
  • Xiang, Zheng;
  • Reeves, Geoffrey D
  • et al.

Very-Low-Frequency (VLF) transmitters operate worldwide mostly at frequencies of 10-30 kilohertz for submarine communications. While it has been of intense scientific interest and practical importance to understand whether VLF transmitters can affect the natural environment of charged energetic particles, for decades there remained little direct observational evidence that revealed the effects of these VLF transmitters in geospace. Here we report a radially bifurcated electron belt formation at energies of tens of kiloelectron volts (keV) at altitudes of ~0.8-1.5 Earth radii on timescales over 10 days. Using Fokker-Planck diffusion simulations, we provide quantitative evidence that VLF transmitter emissions that leak from the Earth-ionosphere waveguide are primarily responsible for bifurcating the energetic electron belt, which typically exhibits a single-peak radial structure in near-Earth space. Since energetic electrons pose a potential danger to satellite operations, our findings demonstrate the feasibility of mitigation of natural particle radiation environment.

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