Monday, May 13, 2013

The Bermuda Triangle of Space: The High-Energy South Atlantic Anomaly

The effects of radiation are part of the price of doing business in space.

There are solar flares, random magnetic distortions and what some NASA scientists call euphemistically the "killer electrons" of the Van Allen radiation belts.

The place where spacecraft are most vulnerable, though, is an area slightly larger than the United States, centered 300 kilometers off the coast of Brazil, where the trapped charged particles of the doughnut-shaped Van Allen radiation belts and cosmic rays from sun storms combine and bottom out at about 200 kilometers above the planet.

Its formal name is the South Atlantic Anomaly, but some call it the Bermuda Triangle of space.