A meteorological observatory on the International Space Station has recorded a series of surprising interactions between lightning and the different layers of the planet’s atmosphere.
“Elves”, “Blue Jets” and “Sprites” do not immediately pique interest in astro-meteorology, but these three different dazzling light discharges are what you see above storm clouds at the very moment you see lightning. fall on Earth. .
The problem for us Earth dwellers trying to see these events is that unless we are so far away that we can see over a storm cloud, that storm must also be large enough to produce these powerful lightning bolts.
The Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) isn’t limited that way, and the state-of-the-art meteorological observatory docked at the ISS is helping scientists better understand this space lightning bolt.
As recently as 2015, astronomers became aware of red sprites and blue jets, as ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen explains in a 2016 video. His was a 10-day project on space rays aboard the ISS Cupula observatory called naturally “Thor”.
Mogensen managed to use Thor’s monitoring gear to record red sprites and blue jets on video in astonishing detailBut now Thor’s successor ASIM has added a third, even more impressive phenomenon to the panoply of recorded space lightning events.
The space beam continued
Recently, ASIM managed to record blue jets in uninterrupted process. The last blue cone of lightning arced 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the stratosphere and, upon reaching the ionosphere, activated “ELVES,” a fancy acronym for a rather cumbersome designation: Light Emission and Very Low Frequency Disturbances Due to to the electromagnetic pulse. Sources.
The elves are expanding halos of ionospheric ultraviolet emissions and the electrons are activated, as the name suggests, when the electromagnetism of the blue jets bursts into the stratopause, the space between the stratosphere and the ionosphere.
Unable to capture the blue jet-elf combo in images for our eyes, artists at the European Space Agency have used existing images to render a small video of what it would look like with the naked eye, 273 miles (440 kilometers) above Earth. .
The data that ASIM managed to capture was used to produce a complete document how these lightnings occur and how they affect our atmosphere.
“Congratulations to all the scientists and university teams who made this happen, as well as the engineers who built the observatory and the ground support teams that operate ASIM, a true international collaboration that has led to amazing discoveries.” said Astrid Orr, ESA’s Physical Sciences coordinator for human and robotic spaceflight.
Sprites, blue jets and elves were recently observed by NASA’s Juno orbiter that will take place in the polar regions of Jupiter.
Scientists had predicted that these phenomena would be present in Jupiter’s turbulent atmosphere, and they found them exactly where one could find them on Earth.
“Now that we know what we are looking for, it will be easier to find them on Jupiter and other planets,” said Rohini Giles, Juno scientist and lead author of its corresponding role published last October.
“And comparing the goblins and elves on Jupiter with those on Earth will help us better understand electrical activity in planetary atmospheres.”
(WATCH the ‘space elves’ video below).
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