An Observational Test of the Stability of Inner Belt Protons Above 60 Mev Using Measurements Separated By 41 Years
Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 10:35 AM
The relative stability of protons trapped in the inner Van Allen radiation belt is a unique signature of the near-Earth radiation environment. While the outer electron belt changes its topography and intensity on timescales of less than a day, calculations indicate that protons in the deepest portions of the inner belt can remain on drift shells for centuries. The long lifetimes for equatorially mirroring protons have never been experimentally verified because few missions traverse this challenging environment, and those that have attempted to quantify the proton flux there have faced potentially large backgrounds from penetrating protons outside the instrument field of view. Today, the Relativistic Proton Spectrometer (RPS) investigation on board the Van Allen Probes offers a background-free reference and hence a unique opportunity to compare the present state of inner belt protons with prior measurements. In this study we revisit one relatively clean, and possibly the most accurate historical dataset: a Cherenkov proton spectrometer that operated in a highly inclined 132x1932 km orbit in 1971. The OV1-20P proton spectrometer covered the energy range of ~65-550 MeV (completely within the RPS energy range), had good background rejection because of a fast scintillator coincidence requirement, but operated off of a flight battery for only 10 days. The short lifetime of the OV1-20P mission is the primary reason it did not have significant impact on subsequent studies of the inner belt. At the meeting we will report on a comparison of OV1-20P and RPS fluxes at the same magnetic field coordinates. Our 41-year measurement baseline is not anywhere near a continuous record of course, but it is rare in space science that we have the opportunity to measure a trapped radiation environment on the timescale of decades.