NASA/AP

NASA probes found a human-made "barrier" is surrounding Earth and protecting the planet from space weather, according to a report published in Science Space Review. The barrier can form when very low frequency (VLF) radio waves — largely used for submarine communications and scientific studies — interact with particles in space.

Why it matters: Earth is bombarded with intense radiation and energy ejected from the sun that can sometimes disrupt satellite communications and power grids. Scientists plan to investigate whether ultimately they could purposely use VLF signals to push this excess radiation farther away from Earth.

The discovery: Researchers found that the barrier, which forms under certain conditions, has actually been pushing Earth's Van Allen radiation belts away for decades. Using satellite data, they compared the inner edge of those belts today vs. in the 1960s when there were fewer VLF communications, and discovered the inner edge is farther away today.

Two quick things:

  • VLF communications are weaker frequencies usually used to transfer coded messages across long distances or under deep water, but their use has evolved over the last 50 years.
  • Earth's two Van Allen belts are collections of charged particles, largely from solar winds, trapped in rings by the planet's magnetic field. The inner belt sits 400 to 6,000 miles above Earth's surface and the outer is 8,400 to 36,000 miles above.

Go deeper

Updated 57 mins ago - Science

Tropical Storm Zeta may strengthen into hurricane before reaching U.S.

The U.S. Gulf Coast and Mexico are bracing for another possible hurricane after Tropical Storm Zeta formed in the Caribbean Sea Sunday.

Of note: Zeta is the 27th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season — equaling a record set in 2005.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Politics: Ex-FDA chief: Pence campaigning after COVID exposure puts others at risk — Mark Meadows: "We are not going to control the pandemic"
  2. Health: 13 states set single-day coronavirus case records last week — U.S. reports over 80,000 new cases for second consecutive day.
  3. World: Australian city Melbourne to exit one of world's longest lockdowns —Italy tightens restrictions Spain declares new state of emergency.
  4. Media: Fox News president and several hosts advised to quarantine after possible COVID-19 exposure
  5. Nonprofit: Rockefeller Foundation commits $1 billion for COVID-19 recovery
Bryan Walsh, author of Future
3 hours ago - Health

Rockefeller Foundation commits $1 billion for COVID-19 recovery

A health worker performs a COVID-19 test in New Delhi. Photo: Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The Rockefeller Foundation announced on Monday that it will allocate $1 billion over the next three years to address the pandemic and its aftermath.

Why it matters: The mishandled pandemic and the effects of climate change threaten to reverse global progress and push more than 100 million people into poverty around the world. Governments and big NGOs need to ensure that the COVID-19 recovery reaches everyone who needs it.