You know the force fields that protect every planet in the Star Wars universe from outside threats? Well, it turns out Earth has one too—sort of. NASA probes have discovered an “artificial barrier” encasing our planet. It’s a barrier that we, the human race, created by mistake, which means that not only are we impacting Earth, but also space itself. According to scientists, however, the barrier is more helpful than disastrous—to us, at least.
The barrier acts as a sort of shield, protecting Earth from high-energy radiation and formed when “very low frequency radio communications” (“VLF” for short) interact with space particles.
“Normally, very low frequency (VLF) signals from radio telescopes are transmitted from the ground and are used to communicate with submarines, deep below the surface of the ocean,” Raw Story reports. “However, they also end up going into the atmosphere.” The result: a massive “VFL bubble” surrounding the Earth that is actually visible from space.
Scientists say this barrier can protect our planet from “extreme” space weather, such as “huge” explosions on the sun, “where plasmas and magnetic field are ejected from its corona, the outermost part of its atmosphere.” According to experts, such ejections can result in geomagnetic storms, which have the potential to knock out communication satellites and entire power grids. That would mean no internet. Sounds terrifying, doesn’t it?
“Under the right conditions, radio communications signals in the VLF frequency range can affect the properties of the high-energy radiation environment around the Earth,” Phil Erickson, a NASA scientist, said in a statement. In other words: Radiation, bad. VLF waves, good.
If there were no VLF bubble at all, researchers argue the radiation belt boundary would be far closer to Earth than it is, which, judging by these aforementioned explosions, is something we don’t want to happen. In fact, data from the 1960s indicated that the Van Allen radiation belt used to be far closer to Earth, when usage of VLF was more limited.
This discovery has influenced NASA to further pursue research regarding how the VLF barrier could potentially remove excess radiation from the space surrounding Earth. So good news, guys! If we keeps things up, we won’t have to worry about geomagnetic storms destroying very important power grids and satellites up in space that deliver your wifi. Give yourselves a pat on the back. Now, if we could only solve the melting-ice-cap problem…