From the Farside: South Atlantic Anomaly, A Portal to Another Universe? --"The 'Bermuda Triangle' of Space" (WATCH Video)
“Before I became an astronaut, I had seen stories of astronauts who had seen white flashes from radiation while they flew in space,” says Terry Virts, a former Nasa astronaut. On the fifth night of his first flight – a 2010 mission with the Space Shuttle Endeavour – he had just got into bed. “I… closed my eyes and boom! This gigantic white, blinding flash happened in my eyes – and I didn’t hear anything.”
One of the oddest of all is the one witnessed by Virts. This is the South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA), which combines a massive flash of light without any sound. But the SAA isn’t just a strange sight. It wreaks havoc on computers in the vicinity and exposes nearby humans to higher radiation levels – something that has earned it its nickname ‘the Bermuda Triangle of space’.
This video tells the story of what happens to Hubble in the mysterious region known as the South Atlantic Anomaly. When satellites pass through this area they are bombarded with swarms of intensely high energy particles.
As manned space flights become more common and astronauts become more reliant on computers, the challenges SAA poses could become only more acute.
To understand the SAA, you must first understand the Van Allen radiation belts. These are two doughnut-shaped areas of charged particles that surround the Earth and are held in place by its magnetic field. “The Sun puts out a huge amount of radiation,” says Virts, “and a lot of it is particles like electrons shot off the Sun’s surface… All of this material gets shot out in space and the Sun’s magnetic field can bend it. When it gets to Earth, it gets trapped in our magnetic field and forms these radiation belts out in space.”
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