Scientists may not like the phrase, “The Bermuda Triangle of Space,” but it describes something quite phenomenal happening right in our backyard. Like the Bermuda Triangle, the South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA) can be a dangerous region for space travelers and spacecraft alike.
What is the South Atlantic Anomaly?
Surrounding the Earth are two belts of radiation called Van Allen belts that are held in place by the Earth’s magnetic field. These belts protect our planet from harmful radiation from the sun, but at the South Atlantic Anomaly, the Earth’s magnetic field is much weaker. As more intense solar radiation fluctuates in the SAA, it becomes damaging for astronauts and spacecraft.
The intensity of radiation in the SAA is equal to being hit by 10 million electron volts at a rate of 3,000 hits per square centimeter. This can cause major malfunctions in electronic and navigational systems and can be deadly for humans. Astronauts wear devices that measure their exposure to radiation to ensure their safety and spacecraft require heavy shielding for protection.
Do we have anything to worry about?
Some scientists believe that the growth of the SAA is an early sign of a reversal in our magnetic field; others wonder if that magnetic field could ever disappear entirely. The disappearance of the Earth’s magnetic field is likely not something to worry about for billions of years. The real concern is protecting our astronauts and spacecraft as we explore space. To read more about the South Atlantic Anomaly check out this article.