Detecting a force field that shields planet Earth

Instruments created by an NJIT-led team and now aboard NASA’s Van Allen Probes have detected an invisible force field thousands of miles from Earth.

This shield, just below the Van Allen radiation belts, blocks “killer electrons” emitted by the sun and prevents dangerous radiation from reaching Earth’s surface. The shield, which completely encircles Earth, is constant, regardless of the strength of solar storms. Andrew Gerrard, professor of physics and director of NJIT’s Center for Solar-Terrestrial Research, speculates that without the force field spacecraft traveling in low Earth orbit (180 to 2,000 km above the Earth’s surface) would be damaged.

Gerrard and Louis Lanzerotti, distinguished research professor of physics at NJIT’s Center for Solar-Terrestrial Research, co-authored a recent article on the shield in the journal Nature along with a team of scientists from the University of Colorado and UCLA who had also observed the shield through different instruments. The team of scientists remains uncertain, however, about what forms the force field.


NASA Calls NJIT’s Spacecraft Instrument Aboard the Van Allen Probes a ‘Mission Success’.

Learn more.

NJIT physicist is a collaborator in the discovery of a new structure in Earth’s inner radiation belt.

Learn more.

Louis Lanzerotti
Louis Lanzerotti Distinguished Research Professor of Physics, College of Science and Liberal Arts
Andrew Gerrad
Andrew GerradProfessor of Physics, College of Science and Liberal Arts, and Director of the Center for Solar Terrestial Research at NJIT