International Space Station detects blue lightning jets shooting upwards from thunder clouds that could affect the concentration of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere
- The phenomenon was discovered by the ASIM device of the European Space Agency
- This is a collection of cameras, photometers and X-ray / gamma ray detectors
- A blue jet was seen coming from a cloud over the Pacific island of Nauru
- It reached into the stratosphere and was accompanied by rings like ‘elves’
- Understanding these phenomena could shed light on how lightning is created
A blue “jet” of lightning shooting upwards from thunder clouds discovered the instrument on board the International Space Station, the study reported.
Measured by the Atmospheric-Space Interaction Monitor (ASIM) of the European Space Agency, the phenomenon originated in a cloud over the Pacific island of Nauru.
It reached the stratosphere – experts believe blue jets can travel up to 50 kilometers – and lasted less than a second.
Because blue jets form above a layer of clouds, they are very difficult to see – and study – from below on the Earth’s surface.
However, traveling around the clouds for about 400 kilometers, the International Space Station offers an unobstructed view.
Understanding the creation of blue jets – and other energy phenomena in the stratosphere and above – can reveal clues as to how lightning moves.
Experts also believe that blue jets can play a role in influencing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – something for studies that will be further investigated.
A blue “jet” of lightning shooting upwards from thunder clouds discovered the instrument on board the International Space Station, the study reported. Pictured is a photo of a thunderstorm taken from the ISS by astronaut Andreas Mogensen in 2015.
ASIM – a collection of optical cameras and photometers, as well as X-ray and gamma detectors – was installed on the International Space Station in 2018.
A monitor we designed to look for electrical discharges that originate from stormy weather and spread above thunderstorms into the upper atmosphere.
The blue jet recently discovered by ASIM began an intense series of five 10-microsecond flashes, the researchers reported.
The flash also generated so-called ‘elves’ – spreading rings of optical and ultraviolet emissions that appear at the bottom of the ionosphere, about 80 km (80 km) above the Earth’s surface.
They are formed by electrons and radio waves interacting with the atmosphere.
“Blue jets are atmospheric electrical discharges similar to thunder, lasting several hundred milliseconds, which stick to the cones as they spread from the top of thunder clouds into the stratosphere,” the researchers wrote in their paper.
“They are thought to trigger an electrical breakdown between the positively charged upper part of the cloud and the negatively charged layer at the cloud boundary and in the air above,” they continued.
‘A breakdown forms a leader that transitions into streamers as it spreads upwards. However, the characteristics of the leader and the altitude that extends above the clouds are not well characterized. ‘
Understanding the formation of blue jets – and other energy phenomena in the stratosphere and above, as shown in the figure – can reveal clues as to how lightning moves
Measured by the European Space Agency’s Atmospheric and Space Interaction Monitor (pictured), the phenomenon originated in a cloud over the Pacific island of Nauru
“This work is an impressive culmination of many new phenomena that ASIM is observing above the storm,” said Astrid Orr, ESA’s physical science coordinator for human and robotic space flights.
‘[It] shows that we still have so much to discover and learn about our Universe. ‘
“I congratulate all the scientists and university teams who have done this, as well as the engineers who have built the observatory and the field support teams that run ASIM,” she continued.
The effort, she concluded, was “true international cooperation that led to incredible discoveries.”
The full findings of the study were published in the journal Nature.
WHAT ARE ‘RED SPRITS’?
Red prices are electric bursts of light that occur above highly active thunderstorms.
They can be seen in the D region of the ionosphere – an area just above the dense lower atmosphere, about 37 to 56 miles above the Earth.
At higher altitudes they appear red, and at lower altitudes they turn blue.
Atmospheric primates have been known for almost a century, but their origins have been a mystery.
They last only a few milliseconds and are relatively weak compared to other lightning bolts.
The late experimental physicist John Vinckler accidentally discovered sprites, while in 1989 he helped test a new video camera in low light.