by Staff Writers
Paris (ESA) Feb 10, 2017
For years, their existence has been debated: elusive electrical discharges in the upper atmosphere that sport names such as red sprites, blue jets, pixies and elves. Reported by pilots, they are difficult to study as they occur above thunderstorms.
ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen during his mission on the International Space Station in 2015 was asked to take pictures over thunderstorms with the most sensitive camera on the orbiting outpost to look for these brief features.
Denmark's National Space Institute has now published the results, confirming many kilometre-wide blue flashes around 18 km altitude, including a pulsating blue jet reaching 40 km. A video recorded by Andreas as he flew over the Bay of Bengal at 28 800 km/h on the Station shows the electrical phenomena clearly - a first of its kind.
Satellites had probed these events but their viewing angle is not ideal for gathering data on the scale of the blue jets and smaller blue discharges. In contrast, the Station's lower orbit is ideally placed to capture the sprites and jets.
Andreas aimed for cloud turrets - cloud pillars extending into the upper atmosphere - and shot a 160 second video showing 245 blue flashes from the top of a turret that drifted from the Bay of Bengal's thunderstorm.
The blue discharges and jets are examples of a little-understood part of our atmosphere. Electrical storms reach into the stratosphere and have implications for how our atmosphere protects us from radiation.
Andreas concludes, "It is not every day that you get to capture a new weather phenomenon on film, so I am very pleased with the result - but even more so that researchers will be able to investigate these intriguing thunderstorms in more detail soon."
IRISS at ESA
Earth Observation News - Suppiliers, Technology and Application
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement|