The former GFZ employee Hayley Allison receives the Karl Scheel-Prize for her work on radiation belt electrons. She is the first GFZ researcher who received the prize of the Berlin Physical Society. The Karl Scheel Prize is the highest award of the Berlin Physical Society, given to physicists at all stages of their careers.
About Hayley Allisons award winning research
During her time at GFZ, Dr. Allison worked on understanding the origin of the most energetic particles, ultra-relativistic elections. These very high energy particles are trapped by the Earth magnetic field in the radiation belts (two donut-shaped regions) of the near-Earth space environment. Ultra-relativistic elections are dangerous to satellites as well as humans in space.
The first question that Hayley Allison addressed in recent years was how electrons are accelerated to such large energies in the radiation belt. In her publication in Nature Communications (Allison and Shprits, 2020, Nat. Commun.) she could definitely show that electrons in the radiation belts can be accelerated to very high energy locally. This ground-breaking study revealed that the magnetosphere works as a very efficient particle accelerator. The magnetosphere speeds up electrons to so-called ultra-relativistic energies and electrons reach such incredible energies locally, in the heart of the belts, by taking all this energy from plasma waves.
The second related question that Dr. Allison addressed was: “What are the special conditions in the belts that allow for acceleration to such high energies. In her latest paper (Allison et al., 2021), Dr. Allison presents a novel analysis of data from the Van Allen Probes mission. She found that the underlying plasma density has a controlling effect over electron acceleration to ultra-relativistic energies in Earth’s radiation belts.
These findings have important consequences for understanding the formation of the ultra-relativistic radiation belt component and present new avenues for future research. These studies may also explain how the radiation belt electrons are accelerated for the planetary environments and may be accelerated in the distant corners of the universe, where space probes cannot reach. The physical understanding of the acceleration obtained by Dr. Allison is already helping to create better tools to predict space weather and protect space assets. For her ground-breaking work and also future research Dr. Hayley Allison now received the prize.
The Karl Scheel-Prize of the Physical Society of Berlin has been awarded annually since 1958 for outstanding scientific achievements. Recipients receive the Karl-Scheel Medal and 5.000 Euros.