South Atlantic Anomaly: The Bermuda Triangle Of Space

by hridika ahire

South Atlantic Anomaly: The Bermuda Triangle Of Space

April 11, 2021

There are several conspiracy theories around the infamous Bermuda Triangle aka the Devil's Triangle, but you would be surprised to know that there is a Bermuda Triangle Of Space too.

We all have our own theories of how the Bermuda Triangle works and why is it so mysterious. It is a region on the west of the North Atlantic Ocean and is also known as the Devil’s Triangle. Many ships and aircrafts have gone missing in this supposed triangle. People have also said that the disappearances are paranormal or activities of extra-terrestrial beings.

More than 50 ships and 20 planes have vanished since the 19th century. There still are conspiracy theories that keep on popping up regarding the disappearance at the Bermuda Triangle. Something of a similar kind happens in the space and is known as the “Bermuda Triangle of space.”

White dots on the map indicate individual events when instruments recorded the radiation impact

The South Atlantic Anomaly

Now, don’t get it confused with the actual Bermuda triangle. No spacecraft goes missing in the Bermuda triangle of space, but there definitely is some disruption that happens when spacecraft hover over the region. Even though nothing goes missing into thin air, it does cause some problems in the equipment which is very dangerous.

The Bermuda Triangle of space is also known as the South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA) since it lies above the South Atlantic. The short explanation for this South Atlantic Anomaly is the distortion in Earth’s magnetic field. The magnetic field on Earth is produced by the slow but powerful churning of Earth’s iron core.

What Happens Inside

This churning isn’t exactly symmetrical. The magnetic poles don’t fall in a line as expected from the geographical North and South poles. The center of the magnetic field is off by 400 miles from the center of the Earth. The South Atlantic Anomaly is spread from Chile to Zimbabwe and is located at the place where the inner Van Allen radiation belt is the closest to Earth’s surface.

The Earth has two Van Allen belts which are in the shape of donuts. These rings are charged by particles that our planet is surrounded with and are held in place by Earth’s magnetic field. High-energy protons make up the inner part of the ring and the outer part consists of electrons. These belts trap the particles that are released by the sun and they protect the planet from the sun’s harmful radiations.

Satellites - and even the ISS - have to spend as little time as possible in this disruptive zone

The Intense Radiation

The Van Allen belts stretch from 1,000 to 60,000 km above the Earth’s surface. The radiation hotspot which is on a lower altitude places this belt within the orbits of some satellites. This causes the satellites to be subjected to be bombarded by protons that exceed energies of 10 million electron volts at the rate of 3,000 “hits” per square centimeter per second.

The magnetic field that is at the location of the SAA is weaker than the rest of the Earth. This is why all the cosmic rays and the particles from space are not as firmly held back as the rest of the planet. The field is so weak that the solar rays from the sun come as close as 200 kilometers to the Earth’s surface. This causes an increase in the flow of energetic particles in this region. Due to this anomaly, the satellites that orbit around the Earth are just a hundred miles above the surface of Earth as it is the easiest region of space to reach. Most of the satellites are below the Van Allen belts, but they sometimes cross the Anomaly and are exposed to intense radiation for some time.

The Effects

These radiations are so strong that some spacecraft face electronic oddities and failures and one such spacecraft were Japan’s Hitomi. The spacecraft experienced a malfunction that triggered an uncontrollable rotation that caused the spacecraft to split eventually.

Even the Hubble telescope is not protected from this Anomaly. The Hubble Telescope passes through the SAA almost 10 times a day and is there for 15% of its total time there. At this time, the telescope also experiences a malfunction and as a result, no data is recorded.

The SAA is Growing

The spacecraft would be in jeopardy if the whole system shuts down and astronauts have already witnessed the computers onboard facing a system failure previously. That is why John Tarduno, a geophysics professor at the University of Rochester said that as a protective measure “Putting equipment into a ‘safe mode’ means operations that are more vulnerable to radiation are curtailed” is the solution.

If the shutting down and malfunctioning of spacecraft wasn’t bad enough, the SAA is also expanding. If the SAA keeps on growing, not only will it increase problems with the computers and other equipment in space, but it will lead to greater expansion of cancer caused by the radiation of the Sun.

The SAA grows at a rate of 19.3 km per year and it is feared that it will soon take up much bigger space than it does today. Even the magnetic field in this area is 15% less than it was 150 years ago. The North pole continues to shift at 65kms per year since 2001. This could lead to the magnetic field of Earth disappearing completely and leaving the Earth open to radiation.


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