Humanity’s penchant for destruction knows no bounds.
Human activity over decades has contributed to the formation of a bubble/ shield/ weird orb encasing the Earth. While this is disrupting the peace in space, NASA hasn’t quite figured out whether its impact – on our planet and on space surrounding us – will be harmful.
NASA recently released a study in Space Science Reviews named ‘Anthropogenic Space Weather’. While humans are presently living through the geological age called ‘Holocene’, that age may soon evolve into ‘Anthropocene’ whereby humans have had a significant impact on the Earth. NASA’s decision to identify the change in space weather as ‘anthropogenic’ is an acknowledgement of this.
Side note: Holocene is also a relaxing Bon Iver song, so feel free to listen to that while you read on.
In a statement, Phil Erickson, Assistant Director at the MIT Haystack Observatory, Westford, Massachusetts, said “A number of experiments and observations have figured out that, under the right conditions, radio communications signals in the VLF frequency range can, in fact, affect the properties of the high-energy radiation environment around the Earth”.
What is VLF?
Very Low Frequency (VLF) waves are lower than those used for AM and FM broadcasts, sitting between 3 kHz and 30 kHz (wavelengths between 100 and 10 km). There’s a nice frequency scale here, which explains the difference. VLF are used to communicate with submarines because the messages conveyed are more solid than high-frequency signals.
NASA’s theory is that our prolific use of these frequencies has created a buffer between Earth and two naturally-occurring radiation belts. “While these waves are intended for communications below the surface,” NASA explained, “they also extend out beyond our atmosphere, shrouding Earth in a VLF bubble. This bubble is even seen by spacecraft high above Earth’s surface, such as NASA’s Van Allen Probes, which study electrons and ions in the near-Earth environment.”
We’ve done it again, humanity. We ruined another thing.