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When Robert A. Helliwell, a Stanford electrical engineer, heard a mysterious series of high-pitched, drawn-out whistles coming from his laboratory's radio receiver more than 60 years ago, his curiosity led him to a pathbreaking series of experiments exploring Earth's magnetic field and the belt of energetic particles beyond it.
Continuing that research, Professor Helliwell sent radio transmitters into space aboard NASA satellites to explore the radio properties of the Van Allen Belt, where highly energetic electrons and protons trigger the aurora borealis, the brilliant northern lights.