5H30.25 - Planetterella - Van Allen Radiation Belts

Iowa Planetterella
Aurora + Auroral Lobes
Auroral Lobes
Ring Current
Photo Credits: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2019/nasa-s-van-allen-probes-begin-final-phase-of-exploration-in-earths-radiation-belts
Code Number:
Demo Title:
Planetterella - Van Allen Radiation Belts
Planetary Radiation Belts
Area of Study:
Earth's Magnetic Field
The Iowa Planetterella Unit.

Plug in the Iowa Planetterella unit and then turn on the power strip.  The vacuum pump should start and after a few seconds the Rasberry display panel will come alive.  Make sure the vacuum valve is closed when the vacuum pump starts.  If desired, you can inject Neon at this time by opening the valves on the Neon lecture bottle.  Open the folder labeled "Iowa Planetterella" on the display unit.  Then open the file labeled "Offline.py" and then hit the "Run/Play" button.  This wil bring up the display that has switches for the H.V. power supply, the Neon injection, the H.V. current, and the H.V. voltage.  Once these are set to the desired levels you can switch between the "Aurora", "Radiation Belt", and "Ring Current" settings.  


  • Patrick O. Braden, "Van Allen Belt Demonstration", AJP, Vol. 31, #6, June 1963, p. 459.
  • James C. Thompson, "Magnetic Mirror Effect", AJP, Vol. 31, #5, May 1963, p. 397.
  • Ronald J. Allen, "A Demonstration of the Magnetic Mirror Effect", AJP, Vol. 30, #12, Dec. 1962, p. 867.
  • Richard Stone, "U.S. Military Tests Radiation Belt Cleanup in Space", Science, Vol. 367, #6473, Jan. 2020, p. 9.
  • Abigail Eisenstadt, "June 15, 1917: Death of Kristian Birkeland, King of the Northern Lights", APS New, Vol. 31, #6, June 2022, p. 2.

Disclaimer: These demonstrations are provided only for illustrative use by persons affiliated with The University of Iowa and only under the direction of a trained instructor or physicist.  The University of Iowa is not responsible for demonstrations performed by those using their own equipment or who choose to use this reference material for their own purpose.  The demonstrations included here are within the public domain and can be found in materials contained in libraries, bookstores, and through electronic sources.  Performing all or any portion of any of these demonstrations, with or without revisions not depicted here entails inherent risks.  These risks include, without limitation, bodily injury (and possibly death), including risks to health that may be temporary or permanent and that may exacerbate a pre-existing medical condition; and property loss or damage.  Anyone performing any part of these demonstrations, even with revisions, knowingly and voluntarily assumes all risks associated with them.