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17 Aug 2006

VAN ALLEN BELTS DISCOVERER DIES

James Van Allen, the US physicist who discovered the radiation belts surrounding the Earth, has died. He was 91. In a career that stretched over more than half a century, Van Allen designed scientific instruments for dozens of research flights, first with small rockets and balloons, and eventually with space probes that traveled to distant planets and beyond. Van Allen gained global attention in the late-1950s when instruments he designed for the first US satellite, Explorer I, discovered the bands of intense radiation that surround the Earth. These bands are now known as the Van Allen Belts.

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